COVID-19 - 7 essential tips to manage stress and anxiety
How to look after your mental health during the Covid-19 Pandemic
The outbreak of COVID-19 is incredibly frightening and is causing significant havoc and uncertainty for many people, both personally and professionally. During this stressful and challenging time it is normal to be feeling anxious and overwhelmed, especially when media advice and reports are changing rapidly.
Our brains are wired to keep us safe – when we are faced with fears and worries, our stress levels increase as a way to bring attention to the problem in hopes to eliminate and/or deal with it effectively. These fears and worries can range from anything like a noise in the house to swimming in open water.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is a much greater global challenge and is going to take time to get through and bounce back from.
Therefore, it is of great importance as we learn to adapt and adjust our way of life that we stay as emotionally and physically healthy and as supported as we can.
Here are some tips to help you through this stressful time:
Limit media and social media
During this time, it can feel almost impossible to steer away from the barrage of rapidly changing COVID-19 media reports and social media views which more often than not leaves you feeling even more stressed and overwhelmed.
The American Psychological Association suggests social media can escalate anxiety more than traditional media – but too much media of any kind can undermine mental health.
While it is important to stay informed, it is just as important to limit consumption and follow only reliable sources.
- Try checking your device only once or twice a day for updates and keep the time you spend reading to a minimum.
- Ask a friend or family member to give you a brief update occasionally and at a time you feel is better suited to your emotional well-being.
You also can read more about “why social media is bad for mental health” here.
Feeling uncertain is not something that sits well for most people and it’s often a significant cause of worry. Unfortunately, without certainty our mind can often become filled with worst – case scenarios and anxious thoughts. These are likely to be focused around all the things you can’t control or have any way of knowing the answer to or outcome for. This results in creating even more emotional distress, so you’re likely to feel worse, rather than better.
At a time where our lives are filled with so much uncertainty, it can be incredibly important to implement strategies to help manage worries and in redirecting our thoughts to the things that are within our control.
Here are some strategies to try:
- Create a stress management plan – emotionally, physically and financially.
- Problem solve where possible on paper.
- Acknowledge how you feel – Make a list of your fears and concerns
- Share your worries
- Focus on the present moment
If you are struggling with uncertainty and excessive worry surrounding COVID-19 you might find my blog on “5 simple strategies to stop worrying” helpful in formulating a stronger plan.
Stay connected and supported
Social distancing, self isolation and lockdown can be especially tough as humans are hard-wired for connection. So when face to face connections are lost ,it is vital for our emotional well-being to find ways to maintain and nurture connections the best way we can.
Here are some suggestions – Let’s get creative!
- Use video conferencing instead of the usual text or phone call
- Make a regular time to catch-up just in the same way you would arrange a luncheon or a coffee but do it virtually.
- Monitor and limit your conversations surrounding COVID-19 and try to make a deal with friends and family to focus on other positive stuff or stories in your life.
- Create groups with family and friends where you share only humor or experiences of gratitude.
- Play games virtually
Self care - more important than ever!
Self -care is vital for managing stress and maintaining a healthy mind and body.
It is even more important now than ever that we build some form of self care into our daily lives to help build resilience and strengthen immunity due to the COVID-19 virus and the current challenges we face.
There are many different ways to practice self-care and your idea of downtime and /or relaxation might be different to someone else’s – and that’s okay!
Here are a few key suggestions –
- Try a new app or online program
- Regular exercise – online or outdoor walk/run/ yoga – even just a few minutes a day can help.
- Meditation or relaxation practices – loads available online to download.
- Eating well – being mindful of nutrition
- Sleep (see sleep section)
- Engaging in supportive and positive relationships
You can find more suggestions and information about creating a strong self-care routine in my blog here on “The importance of self-care for a healthy mind and body”.
Ultimately, whatever self-care practices you put in place during this time make sure it involves doing something you enjoy and that you go easy on yourself – it may not be perfect and/or how you would prefer to do things, but remind yourself it’s not forever.
We are also fortunate that so many wellbeing and exercise businesses have been able to move online during this time so we can continue to maintain our usual routines and practices. Take advantage of this as much as possible and also look out for some of the free services being offered at the moment too.
Remember, if you’re not looking after yourself, you are less likely to be available and/or able to care for others the way you want.
Above all, be kind to yourself and give yourself the attention you deserve. While everyone is experiencing their own challenges you’re important too!
What can I do to improve my sleep quality?
Sleep has a big impact on our health and well-being. It is essential to allow our brains to recharge and bodies to rest and reset for the day ahead.
However, when going through stressful periods, regular sleep patterns and quality of sleep will probably be affected.
Sleep is not something that just happens naturally. It’s not a switch that you can simply turn on and off. For most of us, it’s something we have to work on by creating a calm space that encourages sleepiness.
Whether you are only experiencing the occasional ‘bad’ night, or are going through a more stressful and sleepless period, creating a good bedtime routine is crucial to getting a good night’s sleep.
There are many things that can help with stress-related sleep issues, but what works for one person may not work for the next. So it’s important to try different things until you establish a bedtime routine that works for you and you’re comfortable with.
Find out how you can create a good sleep routine in my blog “8 tips for getting a good night’s sleep when under stress”
Taking care of your relationship
As a result of COVID-19 many couples are experiencing enormous pressures as they deal with the sudden changes to how they live and manage day to day life.
One of main challenges couples are faced with is the adjustment to being in isolation together which can bring out both the “good and not-so-good” dynamics in their relationship.
Many couples are also juggling working from home and homeschooling their children which can add to the build up of stressors in terms of roles and expectations in your relationship.
Now on top of all of that, trying to maintain a romantic relationship is likely to be challenging, maybe even feel impossible.
During this time having regular open conversations and creating some boundaries can be really helpful.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Make some time to discuss the changes and what they mean for you and your relationship – daily and/or weekly if necessary..
- Discuss what new routines and/or rituals might be helpful for you both.
- Consider how you can both still have some downtime for yourself and what that would look like.
- Be creative, cheeky and fun with how you are going to create quality time together
- Keep stress based conversations to a minimum -where possible. Eg: only discuss current news and/or challenges for a certain amount of time per day.
- During these important conversations really try and focus on listening and being empathetic to how your partner may be feeling opposed to “trying to fix it”. If you are unsure what your partner needs ask them.
For more suggestions read my blog here on “how to strengthen your relationship with your partner”.
Everyone’s life and situations are different, but with the growing challenges we face, it’s important to find effective and healthy ways to manage your stress to maintain a healthy well-being.
If you are struggling with the emotional impacts of COVID-19, please reach out to family, friends, a colleague or a health professional.
Please be mindful that regardless of whether you have a history of emotional health difficulties or not, the current health and environmental fears and concerns can fuel anxiety greatly.
If you need further support with managing feelings of anxiety, overwhelm and stress, please reach out to me on 0404 -32636.
Please note: I am also providing weekly “COVID-19 online support groups” to help reduce isolation and suffering caused by stress and anxiety. The groups start Monday the 6th of April. You can find out more here.
You can also find out more about the other changes to Kylie Lepri Counselling services here
Do you need Counselling Support?
If you need counselling support, contact Kylie Lepri for a FREE 15-minute phone call to discuss your situation and find out how she can help. Call us now on 0404 032636 or book your free phone call online.
Kylie Lepri is a registered Counsellor, Psychotherapist, Clinical Supervisor, and Training Consultant. Since 2003 she has helped individuals and couples work through life stressors, develop new goals and create better relationships. Get Kylie’s FREE ebook: 5 Proven Strategies to help manage stress today, by joining her newsletter below.