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Managing Stress and Anxiety During the Pandemic

fear, anxiety, pandemic, stress, managing stress

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Community Wellness

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 our community stronger.

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.

Symptoms of stress 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
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with stress.

Things you can do to support yourself and your family

  • 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, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Go for a walk, being mindful of staying 6 feet apart where possible.
  • Connect with others. Check in with family and friends. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Look for something positive to focus on such as the beauty of nature.
  • Keep things in perspective. “These things too shall pass.”
  • Pull together rather than apart. Don’t see the problem as your problem but as a challenge for your whole family.
  • Go with the flow to some degree.  Many times we are relatively powerless in the face of a crisis. At this point it can be useful to simply tell yourself to “let it go.”
  • Know how to laugh and how to cry, for both are essential to maintain a healthy emotional balance.
  • Embrace spiritually and your faith community as a means of support.  Even though many are not gathering face-to-face, there are many services available via social media and television.
  • Get help outside the nuclear family when needed. Seek help from extended family members, supportive friends, neighbors, colleagues, professionals in the community, or others.
  • Try to keep up with regular routines.  With schools closed and adults working from home, create a schedule for learning/work activities and relaxing or fun activities.
  • Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.

Finally, if you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or extreme anxiety, call FirstLink or 211.  If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 911 or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255. If you prefer to text, you can text "START" to 741-741 where a live, trained specialist will respond back to you.

Sources:  CDC, University of Nebraska Extension’s Creating a Strong Family: Effective Management of Stress and Crisis (G1886).

Ellen M. Bjelland, Extension Agent, Family and Community Wellness

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