Wed, Apr 15, 2020

Stress and Coping during COVID-19

The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is stressful for everyone. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.

Symptoms of stress over COVID can include:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
  • Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations
  • How you respond to the outbreak can depend on your background, the things that make you different from other people, and the community you live in.

People who may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis include:

  • Older people and people with chronic diseases who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19
  • Children and teens
  • People who are helping with the response to COVID-19, like doctors, other healthcare providers, and first responders
  • People who have mental health conditions including problems with substance use
  • Take care of yourself and your community
  • Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with stress.
  • Helping others cope with their stress can also make your community stronger.

For people at higher risk for serious illness

People at higher risk for severe illness, such as older adults, and people with underlying health conditions are also at increased risk of stress due to COVID-19. Special considerations include

  • Older adults and people with disabilities are at increased risk for having mental health concerns, such as depression.
  • Mental health problems can present as physical complaints (such as headaches or stomachaches) or cognitive problems (such as having trouble concentrating).
  • Doctors may be more likely to miss mental health concerns among People with disabilities due to a focus on treating underlying health conditions, compared to people without disabilities.
  • Older adults because depression can be mistaken for a normal part of aging.

Support your loved ones 

Check in with your loved ones often. Virtual communication can help you and your loved ones feel less lonely and isolated. Consider connecting with loved ones by:

  • Telephone
  • Email
  • Mailing letters or cards
  • Text messages
  • Video chat
  • Social media
  • Help keep your loved ones safe.
  • Know what medications your loved one is taking. Try to help them have a 4-week supply of prescription and over the counter medications. and see if you can help them have extra on hand.
  • Monitor other medical supplies (oxygen, incontinence, dialysis, wound care) needed and create a back-up plan.
  • Stock up on non-perishable food (canned foods, dried beans, pasta) to have on hand in your home to minimize trips to stores.

Ways to cope with stress

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media.
  • Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body.
  • Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate 
  • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

For people coming out of quarantine

It can be stressful to be separated from others if a healthcare provider thinks you may have been exposed to COVID-19, even if you do not get sick. Everyone feels differently after coming out of quarantine.

Emotional reactions to coming out of quarantine may include:

  • Mixed emotions, including relief after quarantine
  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Stress from the experience of monitoring yourself or being monitored by others for signs and symptoms of COVID-19
  • Sadness, anger, or frustration because friends or loved ones have unfounded fears of contracting the disease from contact with you, even though you have been determined not to be contagious
  • Guilt about not being able to perform normal work or parenting duties during quarantine
  • Other emotional or mental health changes

Looking Ahead

The good news is that COVID-19 is beginning to wane and our return to normalcy will begin soon. While those with serious health conditions will still need to be very careful, today’s seniors have faced tough situations before and come out on the other side. So stay mindful of your circumstances, keep in touch with friends and family and talk with your doctor about how you are feeling. There are many telehealth services available, so call your doctor’s office and see how they can best connect with and support you during this time. And don’t forget that just a phone call with a trusted friend can do a lot to alleviate some of the stress you may be experiencing. This is the perfect time to count on friends and family so give them a call.

FirstCommunity remains open and staffed to help with any of your Medicare concerns. Please feel free to contact us by phone if you are turning 65 soon and need help or information about Medicare plans, eligibility, deadlines or other matters. Call us at 256-532-2783 or 256-532-2785 or 1-800-734-7826. For now, stay home and stay healthy!

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