Let’s face it. Times are hard right now. The COVID-19 pandemic and recent civil unrest is causing many people to be extremely stressed. People are worried about their health, the health of others, school, work, how to access things they need and what to expect next. These are normal reactions to uncertain situations. According to the CDC, individuals who are stressed by a disease outbreak can have changes in eating, sleep patterns, worsening of chronic health conditions and difficulty concentrating.
Let’s take a closer look at stress. Stress is our mental and physical feeling to a perceived threat. These threats, or stressors, can include chronic illness, declining physical abilities, loss of a spouse, decreased social support, new living environments, having too much time on one’s hands, and financial challenges.
Here are some tips to help manage every day stress:
- Get the facts: Facts help fight fear and anxiety. Knowing the facts helps get rid of any rumors that can lead to unnecessary worry.
- Take a break from COVID-19 media coverage
- Acknowledge how you feel. It is okay to feel what you feel. Try not to spend unnecessary energy fighting your emotions.
- Make time to relax. Take a deep breath in through your nose and slowly let it out through your mouth.
- Exercise. We know that exercise produces relaxation, improves mood and did you know, stimulates brain growth. Consider taking walks, joining an exercise class and getting outdoors in nature. Simply enjoying the sun or sitting outdoors may also brighten your mood.
- Social connection. We all need some social connection. When the coronavirus passes consider joining activities at the senior center. You might also volunteer, when it’s safe to do so. Finally, a pet brings positive interaction and support.
- Have a mind-set: We need to pay attention to our minds as much as our bodies. To manage stress, use a balanced outlook for problems by identifying possible negative and positive outcomes. Additionally, consider pleasant distractions such as reading, crafts or listening to music. You might also try an end-of-the day review of positive moments to improve your mood! Lastly, consider increasing relaxation by deep breathing and meditation.
- Try problem-solving. This approach is most helpful when we are facing known stressors such as housing, home care and nutrition. Consider the Aging & Disability Resource Center (608-741-3600) for assistance. Additionally, consider asking a trusted family member or friend to help identify solutions.
Dr. Baby Min Than, board certified family medicine physician, sees patients at Mercyhealth Woodstock. For more information or to make an appointment, call (815) 337-7100.