Dealing with Stress and Anxiety During the COVID-19 Pandemic
April 23, 2020
We are currently united across the nation—by stress.
Dr. Patrice Holmes, a Middlesex Health psychiatrist, says stress is a normal, physiological response to a threat and a natural response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Anxiety is the emotional response to stress.
If you are worried about COVID-19 and its impact on your life, you are not alone.
In March, the American Psychiatric Association surveyed about 1,000 adults and found that nearly half were anxious about getting COVID-19, and 40 percent were anxious about becoming very ill or dying. The poll also showed that 62 percent were anxious about a loved one becoming ill; 36 percent reported that the pandemic had a serious impact on their mental health; and 57 percent were anxious about how the pandemic would impact their finances.
Dr. Holmes says experiencing some anxiety is normal and helps us to stay safe. However, anxiety can become a disorder if it is excessive, becomes a recurring problem and makes life difficult.
What to look for
Common symptoms of anxiety include:
Being fidgety and restless
Being easily tired
Having difficulty concentrating
Having difficulty completing everyday tasks and feeling discouraged by routine tasks
Feeling overwhelmed and easily tired
Feeling irritable or easily annoyed
Experiencing muscle tension or an upset stomach
Experiencing sleep disturbance
Avoiding things that produce anxiety
How to curb your anxiety
Dr. Holmes says there are several things you can do to curb your anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can:
Be compassionate and kind toward yourself and others.
Monitor your stress and anxiety levels throughout the day and if they are elevated, do something to bring them down.
Create a schedule and routine and try to stick to it as much as possible. (This means eating regular meals, maintaining good personal hygiene and keeping a bedtime routine that is relaxing.)
Reduce your caffeine intake.
Take breaks when working from home.
Use apps like Headspace or Insight Timer to meditate.
Enjoy nature, but remember to maintain your social distance.
Find someone you know who is coping well and use them as a role model as you try to get through your anxiety.
Empower yourself! Seek out reliable information, and choose the safest actions for you and your community.
Limit how often you check the news.
Consider restricting your social media use to content creators that you find positive or inspiring.
Donate to others in need if you are able.
When to get help
It can be helpful to identify when your anxiety goes up. Is it after reading or listening to news coverage of the pandemic? This could explain why someone might be troubled by anxiety now rather than throughout their life.
If your anxiety is interfering with your daily life duties, or if it changes how you view yourself and your relationships, you may need to see a mental health professional. They can help you—even during this pandemic. For example, Middlesex Health Center for Behavioral Health is offering virtual, or telehealth, visits. For more information, visit MiddlesexHealth.org/cbh.
More from Dr. Holmes
Dr. Holmes recently spoke with WTNH's Teresa Dufour via Skype. You can listen to her interview on the WTNH website.
Middlesex Health is proud to offer a unique Lifestyle Medicine Program that is designed to help individuals address their risk for chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity, prediabetes and high blood pressure through diet, exercise, stress management and social connectivity.