COVID-related stress? Here are more ways to decompress
If you’re still feeling an abundance of stress or anxiety, both personally and professionally, due to COVID-19, you may be experiencing symptoms of “caution fatigue.” This term, coined by Jacqueline Gollan, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine (in Time magazine), refers to the impact this pandemic has had on the way many people now make decisions. Let’s examine more ways to dial back your COVID-related stress.
Likening social distancing to a draining battery, Gollan argues people were feeling charged at the start of the pandemic with a desire to flatten the curve. Over time though, that energy has waned, and folks are starting to feel drained, resulting in an increase of confirmed cases along with feelings of stress, anxiety, isolation and disrupted routines. So what can we do to dial this stress back?
First things first, make sure you’re getting enough sleep, stick to a balanced diet, stay connected with family and friends however you can, exercise regularly, and find ways of your own to continue to relieve stress.
Here are some other ways Gollan advises you can work to decompress.
Reframe risks and benefits
Rather than trying to stay focused on abstract goals like improving public health or flattening the curve, which can be hard to stay motivated on in the long term, focus on how your individual behavior affects your chances of getting sick and spreading the virus to people around you.
Consider focusing less on productivity. Pressuring on yourself to renovate a room or learn a new hobby may not be best right now. On the other hand, some individuals might need higher levels of productivity, because work helps them cope better. People deal with stress differently. Listen to your body and your feelings to decide what works best for you. At the same time, respect the differing coping mechanisms of those around you. And be flexible with kids when they’re working (or not!) to complete remote assignments. Because we’re navigating uncharted waters, more patience is required.
Rebuild your routine
COVID-19 has likely reshaped your regular daily routine completely, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still make time for things you valued before the pandemic, like exercise and socializing. Creating a new normal as much as possible can be stabilizing, Gollan says.
Focusing on small segments of your new routine can also be a helpful way to combat uncertainty. If it’s hard for you to think about how long quarantine may stretch on, instead focus on the immediate future: tomorrow. Next week. Valentine’s Day.
Replicate your old routine when possible. Set your alarm for the same time you did before you began working from home. Get out of your pajamas and keep up with your daily hygiene. Routines provide structure which is essential to creating a sense of normalcy.
Put your media consumption on a diet
Just as you’ve learned to tune out certain sounds (dogs barking, TV and more) while working from home, “we get desensitized to the warnings [about coronavirus],” Gollan says. “That’s the brain adjusting normally to stimulation.” Give yourself a break from your newsfeeds and social media. Instead, something as simple as checking headlines from another part of the country (like your hometown) or reviewing a credible news source you don’t usually follow, could help your brain reset, she says.
If you are still feeling overwhelmed with COVID-related stress, here are resources you can turn to for help, depending on your situation, listed below.
Where to get immediate help for dialing back COVID-related stress
- The national Disaster Distress Helpline is available to anyone experiencing emotional distress related to COVID-19. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to speak to a caring counselor.
- If you’re experiencing emotional distress related to COVID-19, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or your local crisis line.
- For coping tools and resources, visit the Lifeline website at suicidepreventionlifeline.org or Vibrant Emotional Health’s Safe Space at vibrant.org/safespace.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline has highly trained advocates available 24/7 to ensure services and continue to support survivors.
Get immediate help in a crisis
- Call 911
- Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish), or text TalkWithUs for English or Hablanos for Spanish to 66746. Spanish speakers from Puerto Rico can text Hablanos to 1-787-339-2663.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish, or Lifeline Crisis Chat.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
- National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or Online Chat
- The Eldercare Locator: 1-800-677-1116 TTY Instructions
- Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Crisis Chat or text: 8388255
Find a health care provider or treatment for substance use disorder and mental health
- SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) and TTY 1-800-487-4889
- Treatment Services Locator Website
- Interactive Map of Selected Federally Qualified Health Centers
- Coping with a Disaster or Traumatic Event
- COVID-19 Behavioral Health Resources
- Coronavirus Tax Relief and Economic Impact Payments
- Coping with Stress During an Infectious Disease Outbreak
- Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health during an Infectious Disease Outbreak
For Families and Children
- Helping Children Cope during an COVID-19 Outbreak
- Helping Children Cope with Emergencies
- Coping After a Disaster – A Ready Wrigley activity book for children age 3-10
- Teen Depression
For People at Higher Risk for Serious Illness
For Healthcare Workers and First Responders
- Healthcare Personnel and First Responders: How to Cope with Stress and Build Resilience During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Emergency Responders: Tips for Taking Care of Yourself
- Disaster Technical Assistance Center (SAMHSA)
For Other Workers
Did you miss our earlier post with ways to beat the holiday blues and COVID-related stress? View it here.