This article is aimed at giving you and your family some helpful tidbits on how to stay mentally and physically fit during this pandemic. This is just helpful information. This is not medical advice. If your stress, anxiety, or mental health is concerning you, or becoming difficult to live with, please speak with a licensed medical professional.
Anxiety During COVID-19
The word “anxiety” has a whole new meaning in 2020. COVID-19 has changed how we think, act, and feel. We need to learn how to live in this new world and accept our new normal. But, let’s be honest, we don’t have answers yet and nobody really knows what next week will bring. COVID-19, or coronavirus, has really thrown us for a loop. We are now worried that one breath or cough in the wrong direction can land our parents, family, friends, patients, or loved ones in the hospital. Transitioning back to our old ways is uncharted waters with new normals and new fears. We just have to do our best with what we know. Remember, you aren’t alone.
How can I decrease COVID-19 (and COVID stress) in my home?
When you feel out of control about something, one of the best ways to cope is to figure out what can be done, and understand what you can’t control. In this case, with the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be many unknowns, but there are also many knowns.
According to the CDC, COVID-19 is primarily spread from person to person, through a few ways:
- You can become infected by coming into close contact (about 6 feet or two arm lengths) with a person who has COVID-19.
- You can become infected from respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks near you.
- You may also be able to get it by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then by touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
Remember, the virus may spread by people who do not even know they have COVID-19 (i.e. they have no symptoms).
So the good news: we know how to best prevent getting the virus. We can control our behavior in our own home and when we are out in public by following some basic rules of thumb. We can ease our worried minds by continuing to follow social distancing, staying away from others when possible, wearing masks in public places, washing our hands frequently, and avoiding touching our faces. These are some of the best ways to decrease the spread of this virus.
Worrying about the symptoms of COVID-19
Patients with COVID-19 can exhibit many different symptoms, often not consistent or specific, which can make this seem even more stressful. Symptoms vary and can include cough, runny nose, chest pain, shortness of breath, vomiting, chills and aches. Sometimes, people with the virus show no symptoms at all. Often times, people convince themselves that they have any of these symptoms. Add in the new symptoms children are experiencing, such as fevers, rashes, diarrhea and more, and you could self-diagnose anyone in your house with COVID-19.
This is going to be hard. We will worry. The news is full of new symptoms to watch out for and fear levels are high. Worrying is inevitable but the important part is that you are able to take care of yourself and family. If you feel you’re unable to do that, let’s go over what you should do.
What kind of stress are you having?
Ask yourself or a loved one if they feel you are able to carry on with your daily activities. If you are finding your stress is preventing you from getting work done, caring for yourself or loved ones, or keeping you from completing your usual tasks and routines, then please don’t delay care. It is important to talk to a trained professional such as your primary care provider, a therapist or licensed mental health provider so that you can stay healthy. It’s possible that you need some regular therapy sessions or medication to help you get through these times. It’s ok! If you are feeling this way, contact your healthcare provider now.
According to the WHO, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. The American Psychological Association found in a poll from 2004 (well before COVID and increase in telemedicine) that 48 percent of those polled reported a visit to a mental health professional by someone in their household during the year. Now with mental health providers doing telehealth visits and people with all time high stress levels, this number is likely to be much higher. Video visits are much more accessible and you can access this care quickly from the comforts of home. We can help you find a telehealth visit now.
What can you change?
If you feel like you are doing ok, just more overwhelmed here and there throughout your day, you may be able to eliminate some stressors by limiting your triggers. For example, if 5pm usually brings a mix of stress—scary news on the TV, kids getting hangry, increase in the phone ringing—consider eliminating what you can control such as turning off the TV and maybe, just maybe, silencing your phone.
Think about what helps and what doesn’t and try and put some protective measures in place to cushion the stressors from directly reaching you. Be in charge of some of what stresses you out. We all know you can’t manage every stressor, but we can limit some of them.
A little bit of self care goes a long way
We recommend setting aside some time for yourself each day. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Journal or doodle to relieve stress.
- Try a free online yoga class, or go for a brisk walk to clear your head.
- Try meditation. Think happy thoughts.
- Take a cold shower. Cold water can release endorphins!
- Send kind handwritten notes or texts.
- Donate to a charity.
- Color some inspirational sidewalk chalk messages.
- Offer to pick up an elderly neighbor’s groceries.
- Schedule some time to connect with a friend if you’re feeling lonely.
- Go outside and clip a few flowers from your yard or some wildflowers from the edge of the road.
Do what makes you feel good. Small amounts of self care will go a long way!
Take care of your medical needs
Don’t put off your regular visits to take care of any chronic illnesses or new symptoms. We don’t want to see otherwise preventable and treatable issues causing long-term health effects for those that are too afraid to seek care. Call your provider and start with a telehealth visit when possible.
Stress can make things worse
Keep in mind that stress can make your symptoms, aches and pains, and health issues seem worse. It can make you tired, wear you out and shorten your ability to cope. Chat with Nurse-1-1 if you are having symptoms you want to discuss, and we can help you find a mental health professional if you are worried your stress is interfering with everyday life. Sometimes, all it takes to relieve stress is chatting with someone who is compassionate, knowledgeable about your concerns, and can help point you in the right direction when you need additional care. Our nurses are all of the above!
Remember, if you or a loved one has thoughts of self-harm, please call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or seek emergency care by calling 911. Mental health is a serious topic, so please take the necessary precautions to keep you and your loved ones safe.
Kim Liner, PNP
Nurse-1-1 Chief NP
The opinions expressed in Nurse-1-1 Health Center Blog are solely opinions of the writer. Other than information received directly by you from your personal provider, the health center blog should not be considered medical advice. Read more.