Managing stress and anxiety is a challenge we all face even in the best of times. But, given the current situation, these feelings can be heightened. The fear that we, our families and friends could contract Covid-19 raises anxiety levels in virtually everyone. With the barrage of news reports, the strain of job losses, economic struggles and the isolation that comes along with social distancing, it can all be a lot to manage.
Now more than ever, it is important to recognize the triggers that overwhelm us and find healthy ways to cope. Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS (aka Dr. Rachel) is a clinical psychologist who takes a holistic approach to health. She specializes in the mind-body connection including stress reduction, weight management and healthy behavioral change. She offers the following tips and suggestions to help keep us emotionally and physically healthy as we navigate through these difficult times.
Goldman explains that any time our daily lives are disrupted, it creates stress. The best way to manage disruption in our lives is to adhere to our structured daily routines. You should continue to wake up and go to bed the same time you normally would so your body does not get out of its natural rhythm. Stick to healthy meals and snacks to feel your best. Stress eating is one of the most common struggles people battle. And, the fact that we are all in our homes with the refrigerator just steps away, creates the perfect storm. Instead of mindless eating, try to distract yourself with a quick workout or a project. It will help!
There are several steps to managing our emotions. First, we must identify the stressors currently in our lives that we cannot control:
- The COVID-19 pandemic
- Social interaction restrictions
- Other people and their behaviors
Once we identify these stressors, we can respond with behaviors that are in our control by:
- Managing our physical routines: eating healthy, staying hydrated, exercising and maintaining consistent sleep habits
- Washing our hands frequently, wearing a mask in public and maintaining social distancing guidelines
- Reacting appropriately to the behaviors of others around us
- Choosing healthy coping mechanisms
Choosing appropriate coping mechanisms is the best way to overcome stress and achieve a sense of overall well being. There are both healthy and unhealthy ways to cope. Being able to recognize the differences and opting for the healthiest path is key.
Some unhealthy coping mechanisms include: drugs, alcohol, aggression towards yourself or others, and in some cases binge eating. Instead of using destructive escapes, try some of these healthy alternatives: meditation/relaxation, yoga, getting lost in a good book, calling a friend to talk, taking a brisk walk, listening to your favorite music or getting some fresh air if possible. Remember that what works for one person may be different for someone else. Find a productive outlet that works for you to take your mind off the stress.
Should these tips and strategies not help, and you continue to feel out of control or unable to cope, please reach out to a trained professional for some additional support. Any time these feelings impact your daily functioning, it is time to seek out a mental health professional. If seeing someone in person is not possible right now, many professionals are offering virtual counseling sessions. Psychologytoday.com is a great resource for finding a therapist or call a mental health hotline in your area for support.
Just remember you are never alone. Staying connected to family and friends as much as possible and utilizing the resources available will help us all. We will get through this together!
For other great tips from Dr. Rachel to stay healthy, both emotionally and physically, check out: www.drrachelnyc.com