Everyone responds differently to stressful situations depending on a person’s experiences and characteristics. Dealing with uncertainty, especially in a time of unusual stress or during a crisis can be a challenge for many people to handle in a healthy way. Whether or not you have dealt with mental illness and anxiety in the past, you may feel a sense of not being in control, panic, helplessness, scared, and more intense worry. These feelings are absolutely normal and you may notice them shift and change as you experience the crisis or stressful situation.
Some reactions to stressful or crisis situations to watch out for in yourself or loved ones are excessive worry or fear about the health of yourself or people around you. Look for changes in sleeping or eating patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, worsening of chronic conditions, or increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
People who already have a treatment plan in place to manage mental health and anxiety symptoms should continue with their treatment and monitor for new symptoms. This includes taking prescribed medications, keeping doctor’s appointments, and adhering to any special dietary needs. Coping with stressful feelings, reaching out to those you trust, and getting help for yourself or loved ones when needed will help you be able to manage and recover from a crisis.
If you do not have professional support and need help coping with the stress and crisis, please reach out to a licensed therapist. Telehealth is even more available now than in the past and just as effective as in-office support. You do not have to manage on your own. Help is available.
Here are 6 ways to help you manage stress and anxiety during a crisis situation:
1) Limit your intake of media. The news media works on the strategy of repeating stories hourly or more often. Very often news stories will be repeated without any additional information added. Repeated exposure to the same stressful event can exacerbate our stress response. It’s good to stay in the know, but consider limiting your ingestion of news media, especially if you are starting to feel overwhelmed.
2) Take care of your body. Drink lots of water, eat healthy, and continue with your normal exercise routine (as approved by your primary doctor). A good diet, exercise, and sleep are the trifecta for health.
3) Make time to relax. With the news of any large scale adverse event, there is an inherent sense of urgency. We can get wrapped up in the energy of outside actors (newscasters, politicians, fundraisers, etc.). Constant vigilance is not good for our bodies. To counteract it, use your relaxation coping skills like breathing, journaling, or listening to music. Take time to do other activities you enjoy to allow yourself to return to a sense of normalcy.
4) You need to talk about it. Connect with others about how you are feeling and what concerns you have. Connect with them about other things, too. There is no reason to stop living your life right now. Find ways to create a sense of normalcy even with the disruptions to your usual way of life.
5) Take appropriate precautions to keep yourself healthy. Follow the CDC guidelines prevention: wash your hands regularly, avoid touching your face, and avoid contact with people known to be sick. For more information, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html
6) Remain hopeful. Remind yourself that these feelings won’t last forever. Focus on positive thinking and staying present with what you do have control over in your life.
Be well and take care of you!