Coping with anxiety in stressful times

Even in normal times, stress can be a part of daily life. But these are certainly not normal times; there is hardly any aspect of ordinary life that has not been turned upside down because of COVID-19 and the far-reaching efforts being made to contain it.

People are worried about their health and the health of loved ones. Many are worried about finances, uncertain about when they can go back to work, and wondering if they will be able to pay bills and rent. Parents are juggling work-at-home with school-at-home or all-day childcare. For some, too much forced togetherness threatens domestic peace and tranquility; for others, too much solitude feels isolating and scary.

Some anxiety about all this disruption is normal. Change is unnerving, especially when it is sudden and outside our control. Here are a few ways to cope with stress:

Be kind to yourself. Go easy on yourself if you’re experiencing more anxiety than usual. You’re not alone in your struggles.

Maintain a routine as best you can. Even if you’re stuck at home, try to stick to your regular sleep, school, meal or work schedule. This can help you maintain a sense of normalcy.

Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.

Take time out for activities you enjoy. Read a good book, watch a comedy, play a fun board or video game, or make a new recipe. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it takes you out of your worries.

Take care of your body. Resist the urge to snack instead of eating healthy meals. Find ways to exercise; staying active will help you release anxiety, relieve stress and manage your mood. Take a walk outside; sunshine and fresh air are good for the soul.

Avoid self-medicating. Be careful that you’re not using alcohol or other substances to deal with anxiety or depression. If you tend to overdo it in the best of times, it may be a good idea to avoid for now.

Check in with your friends, colleagues and loved ones often. Sharing stories and feelings are a mutual means of support.

Help others. It will make you feel better.

For some people, however, self-care is not enough to keep anxiety from becoming all-consuming. Among those most at risk for high levels of distress include:

n People in recovery from alcohol, substance abuse and nicotine addiction.

n People who previously experienced anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns.

n Individuals who live in low-income households.

Some signs that anxiety levels are becoming a problem include:

n Constant fear and worry.

n Changes in sleep or eating patterns.

n Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.

n Worsening of chronic health problems.

n Worsening of mental health conditions.

n Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.

Contact your health care provider if you are experiencing acute distress. Additionally, the county’s Health and Social Service Departments and Mental Health Center all continue to function, as do many private community service organizations that are open and responding to client needs, including the Healthcare Consortium.

Although our office at 325 Columbia St. is closed until at least the end of April, all programs and services continue to function, and can be reached by calling 518-822-8820, which is being answered 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Helping people get and stay healthy has always been our goal, but it has never been more true than now. If you have any questions about how and where to find programs and services at this difficult time, please call and we will be happy to help you.

The Healthcare Consortium is a non-profit organization with a mission of improving access to healthcare and supporting the health and well-being of the residents in our rural community. The agency is located at 325 Columbia St. in Hudson. For more information: visit www.columbiahealthnet.org or call 518-822-8820.

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