Many of you are approximately a month into quarantine or close to it like I am. You are likely experiencing many and different emotions right now. You are not alone in stress, anxiety and sadness from Coronavirus. Stress, anxiety and sadness can occur in daily life, but often, it is made more severe or intense during a crisis such as the Coronavirus pandemic. I want to help you understand what those feelings are and then provide some ways to help you cope.
According the the American Psychological Association (APA) Anxiety
is “characterized by apprehension and [physical symptoms] of tension in which the individual anticipates impending danger…or misfortune.” It may manifest as muscle tension, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate. “It is a future-oriented, long-acting respoe broadly focused on a diffuse threat, whereas fear is an appropriate, present-oriented, and short-lived response to a clearly identifiable and specific threat.” Coronavirus presents elements of a clear and present threat to our health, economy, and personal safety. At the same time, it also causes future-oriented threat about those things as well.
The APA definition of Stress is “a physiological or psychological response to internal or external stressors”. It causes changes in “nearly every syste of the body” such as the following: palpitations, dry mouth, shortness of breath, restlessness, accelerated speech, increased blood pressure, sweating, and fatigue among many. Extended periods of stress without any intervention can have a significantly adverse affect on your health. Again, with the Coronavirus, there are some very real environmental stressors and possible internal stressors if you are at risk due to chronic physical illness, a pre-existing condition, or due to job loss or reduce hours at work, or economic factors related to Coronavirus.
Sadness or situational depression is defined by the APA as “a negative [mood] state, ranging from unhappiness and discontent to an extreme feeling of sadness, pessimism, and despondency, that interferes with daily life.” It may manifest as loss of appetite, increased appetite, isolation or withdrawal, anger, irritability, lack of energy, lack of motivation, feelings of guilt, difficulty making decisions, and difficulty concentration.
Are you experiencing any of these symptoms? Once you acknowledge what you are experiencing, you can seek help for it with a psychotherapist or counselor. Here are some suggestions of how you can also help yourself reduce the severity of these symptoms.
- Limit your exposure and consumption of the news and social media related to the Coronavirus. Repeated exposure can increase your stress.
- Take time to relax. Relaxing and calming activities decrease stress and anxiety. Practice relaxed breathing, meditation, or prayer.
- Connect with family and friends by phone, zoom, facetime, WhatsApp or text.
- Take time to engage in pleasurable activities or experiences like reading, watching fun shows, playing games, playing music, etc.
- Exercise or move daily. Physical movement also helps release endorphins that boost your mood and helps to focus nervous energy or agitation.
- Continue with supportive counseling and medication if you already have depression or anxiety. This is not the time to discontinue mood medications or other medications.
- Check out these resources for Coping with Coronavirus from UCLA for more help