We find ourselves in a time of unprecedented stress, anxiety, and uncertainty in the presence of the coronavirus crisis. The well-being of society; families, communities, businesses, organizations as well as our nation are all impacted. How do we survive and recover from such a massive assault on our population? As this crisis unfolds, media reports consume the airwaves with reports of travel restrictions, self-quarantine, event activity shut down, work place restrictions, schools closed, and concerns for your own and your loved ones’ health – people can experience a wide range of thoughts, feelings and reactions. All of which are normal in the presence of a crisis / traumatic incident. These reactions include the following:
• Feeling stressed or overwhelmed
• Anxiety, worry, or fear
• Sadness, tearfulness, and/or loss of interest in usual enjoyable activities
• Physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate, stomach upset, low energy, or other uncomfortable sensations
• Frustration, irritability, or anger
• Feeling helpless
• Difficulty sleeping
• Loss of appetite
• Loss of focus and concentration
• Isolating or withdrawing from others, and/or fear of going to public spaces
Managing Stress During a Crisis:
• Keep in mind that alcohol is a depressant and as such will intensify the negative reactions experienced following the crisis. Caffeine will increase anxiety and negatively impact the ability to sleep. Use cautiously and be aware of the effects.
• Drink plenty of fluids such as water or juice. Avoid consuming large quantities of soda that contains caffeine.
• Use quick relaxation techniques to regain control of emotions. Take a slow deep breath by inhaling through the nose, holding the breath for 3 seconds and exhaling through the mouth. Upon exhalation the words “relax,” “let go,” “I can handle this” may be spoken. Repeat the process a second time. Utilize this technique when you become aware of negative reactions or thoughts beginning to occur.
• Resist the desire to withdraw. Maintaining a connection with the people in your life is of the utmost importance. Maintain your support systems of family and friends. If you feel the need for some quiet time, tell those around you of this need. Ask them to give you some “space.” Do not just shut down.
• Engage in simple exercise. The stress reactions produced by the crisis, coupled by the wide range of thoughts, will produce a sense of unrest. Engaging in simple exercise such as walking, biking, and swimming will assist in dissipating these reactions.
• Limit exposure to the news. We live in a media powerful world that allows us to experience events in real time. The constant exposure to the crisis through media will continue to trigger negative reactions as the crisis unfolds over and over. Choose a news program to stay informed. Watch the program in the early evening and allow yourself time to process the information and take appropriate action steps to alleviate the stress reaction that may be created. Do not watch the news immediately prior to going to bed.
• Try to develop a new schedule as close to your normal schedule as possible. By maintaining as normal a schedule as possible you protect some degree of a normal existence while in the midst of the crisis. During this time of stress, it is important to continue to do things you enjoy. Schedule time for recreational activity. Go ahead and continue your recreational interest and just have fun. Make daily decisions and follow through.
• Set short range goals. Goals provide a sense of direction during a time when confusion and fear of the unknown are present. Attempt to set goals for 1 week, 2 weeks, etc. Be certain that the goal you set is realistic and manageable. By setting realistic goals you will avoid the frustration that always accompanies failed goals.
• Set limits for yourself. Avoid the urge to push on without allowing sufficient time to relax and unwind. Give yourself permission to take the “intermission.” Listen to the “wisdom” of your body. When you are tired… rest
• Be aware of your feelings and talk about them. Keep a journal and write your thoughts. If you have difficulty sleeping, do not fight the sleeplessness. Find a quiet place and write your way through the sleepless nights. The process of talking or writing will assist you in quieting your mind thus enabling you to relax and sleep.
• During the crisis realize that those around you are also in varying levels of distress. Be tolerant; seek first to understand others’ reactions and allow them space.
• Resist the desire to make major life changes. Allow time for the crisis to pass and recovery to occur before making major decisions.
• Eat well balanced meals.
• Remember your symptoms are normal having experienced a powerful negative event. Understand that during times of great distress “it is OK not to be OK.”
– adapted from American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress
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Additional Mental Health Resources During COVID-19
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24/7) 1.800.273.8255
CONTACT Mercer (8AM – 10PM) 609.896.2120
Crisis Text Line text START to 741741
LGBTQ Hotline 855.654.6735
NJ COVID-19 Hotline (7 a.m.-11 p.m.) Dial 211
Trans Lifeline 877.565.8860
Veterans Crisis Line 1.800.273.8255
Best COVID-19 Websites
N.J. COVID-19 Information Hub https://covid19.nj.gov/
CDC Testing Info & Coronavirus Checker https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/testing.html
Articles on Coping with COVID-19
The Coronavirus: Coping with Fear and Uncertainty
Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19 – CDC
Coronavirus Anxiety – Helpful Tips and Resources
Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope with the Coronavirus Disease
Take A Deep Breath – Free Resources from CALM