• By Jessica DeGore
  • In Uncategorized
  • April 29, 2020

Mind Your Stress During a Pandemic

By: Lisa Jones

No matter where you look these days, the pandemic is causing stress in your daily life. Some of this stress is good. It keeps us motivated to do our best to protect our family and stay home, healthy, and safe. A little bit can go a long way, though, and constant or unmanaged stress can lead to health problems. While it may be impossible to avoid stress completely, know that it is possible to manage it once it appears.  If you have arrived at or are approaching the point of “too much COVID-19-related stress,” continue reading to learn some effective techniques for managing the problem.

 

Check for the hidden signs

Check for hidden signs that you are stressed, such as:

  • Eating more than usual, or drinking more alcohol than usual
  • Sleeping more or less than usual, or having poor sleep quality
  • Acting unusually rude to others
  • Feeling constantly disorganized and/or unproductive
  • Becoming angry more quickly than normal

 

Here are several practices to mitigate stress during a pandemic:

 Practice gratitude

Focus on the positive and be grateful for the good things in your life. If you have trouble doing this, try keeping a “gratitude journal” to help you focus on the positive.  Express your feelings without hostility and anger by practicing effective communication skills.  The “virtual” world presents many opportunities to learn these important techniques through webinars, videos, and articles.

 

Practice controlling what you can control

The pandemic is out of your control, and stressing about it will not change that.  However, you can do your part by following the shelter in place orders and washing your hands to help stop the spread and flatten the curve.  Ask for help to make changes to your schedule, deal with responsibilities, or to take time off to provide childcare.  Everyone is worried during this crisis and it is helpful to remind yourself that ultimately, it is out of your hands.  Constantly fretting about what may or may not happen will not change the outcome, but can harm you—physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Practice prioritizing

Choose your priorities in your home life, work life, community, and yourself.  Pick one priority from each category to begin with and create an action plan that can be completed while social distancing.  Just planning on doing something will get you excited enough to provide encouragement.  Break seemingly overwhelming projects into smaller, more manageable pieces.  Accomplishing small goals on the way to completing a project can help manage stress.

Practice relaxing

Learn what helps you relax during this stressful period and allow time each day to enjoy those activities.  There are many ways to create a relaxing home environment according to your individual preferences.  For example, some people relax by taking a hot bubble bath with a magazine, while others may prefer increased physical activity.  Make a list of the things that make you feel more peaceful, and keep trying them out until you find a few that work.  One of the ways you can still get “outdoors” and enjoy nature is through a “virtual tour” offered by some of our national parks.  Also, try taking a deep breath…literally.  Learn to breathe diaphragmatically, also known as “belly breathing,” by placing emphasis on your exhaled breath. Your belly should expand slightly when you inhale and go down as you exhale. It is best to inhale and exhale through your nose.  Focusing on this type of breathing has been shown to help many people relax.

 

References and recommended readings

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19). https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html. Accessed April 9, 2020.

Coping with stress at work. American Psychological Association.  http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/work-stress.aspx. Accessed April 9, 2020.MedlinePlus. Stress management. US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health Web site. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001942.htm. Accessed April 9, 2020.

Lisa Jones MA,RDN,LDN,FAND is a Philadelphia-based award-winning registered dietitian and nutrition communications consultant. She is a registered dietitian-nutritionist in the state of Pennsylvania and a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Lisa is currently serving as the chair elect for the Academy’s Nutrition Entrepreneurs Dietetic Practice Group.  She serves on the advisory board for Consultant 360/Nutrition411. In 2014, Lisa was recognized as Outstanding Dietitian of the Year by the Pennsylvania Academy, the highest honor bestowed upon a Pennsylvania Dietitian.