Dealing With Stress During Coronavirus-The Orlando Times
BY JALESSA CASTILLO, TIMES STAFF WRITER
55% of Americans are stressed during the day, this statistic has continued to rise with the global pandemic.
Millions around the US are experiencing high levels of stress and it is damaging their health. Stress is a significant factor in mental health problems including anxiety and depression. It is also linked to physical health problems like heart disease, problems with a person’s immune system, insomnia and digestive problems.
Stress Awareness Month has been held every April, since 1992 to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures of stress.
Stress is not necessarily a ‘bad’ thing. It is primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, to prepare the body for physical action.
The challenge is when our body goes into a state of stress in inappropriate situations. When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is minimized. If kept in a state of stress for long periods, it can be detrimental to a person’s health.
As the world is amid a pandemic, with millions self-isolating in their homes, many people are having a hard time with the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus. No one knows how exactly they’ll be impacted or how bad things might get. And that makes it easy to spiral into overwhelming stress.
“With self-quarantine and having more time in self-isolation we become more hyper aware of some of the self-conscious stressors that we weren’t addressing prior to being in this pandemic. So, a lot of times we will start to double down on our coping styles that we use to deal with stress,” said Ryan Beale, Psychotherapist, Licensed Therapist. “If someone likes to write, maybe they are going to double down. If someone is used to having a drink or abusing substances, they’re likely to double down with those coping styles.”
According to the CDC, Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include: Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, changes in sleep or eating patterns, and more.
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, how they respond to the outbreak can depend on their background, the things that make them different from other people, and the community they live in.
People who may respond more strongly to the stress of this crisis include people who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, children and teens, and those in the medical field.
“[Making those] immediate life and death decisions brings a level of intensity; it increases adrenaline and cortisone levels where it takes more energy to recoup. Individuals that are on the front lines will get a quick reset but then they’re back to the front line- so a lot of it is going to deal with fatigue,” said Beale.
However, there are many things a person can do—even in the face of this unique crisis—to manage anxiety and fears.
“There’s a lot of online help if you’re suffering from trauma. There is no reason that you have to sit at home and feel you are very isolated from the world and feel you can’t reach out for help,” said Dr. Kathryn Smerling, PhD, LCSW, a Family Therapist practicing in New York City for over 25 years. “It’s very important to concentrate on the here and now because fear and anxiety tend to develop when you’re thinking about the future because you don’t have any answers. And certainly, none of us have any answers right now.”
In her article 5 Ways to Reduce Stress and Boost Immune System While Social Distancing, Wendy King noted the importance social media plays in stress and anxiety.
“Social media platforms can cause incredible anxiety as rumors and misinformation spread on them. Limit time on social media, and don’t instigate hysteria by reposting unvetted information,” said King. “The upside to social media is that we truly are more connected than ever before. Be creative to ensure our social distancing doesn’t lead to emotional distancing for those most in need.”
Additionally, as mentioned, there are many resources available online. Beale, who is the founder of the Live Network- a public benefit and Co-Author of the PrepareU Mental Health Curriculum, noted the value of the PrepareU Mental Health Home Edition. It is a full experience of 11 sessions that families do together to learn how to decompress, reduce anxiety, and reduce depression.
“One thing that is important is to create rituals. People can have a routine but having a ritual may be the family Thursday game night, a phone call or conference with friends to connect at a specific day and time, it’s a way to create connections that people can look forward to throughout the week,” advised Beale. “It’s very isolating for extreme trauma to happen to you and you’re the only one, but we’re in a place right now to realize that everyone in the entire world is in this together. Say ‘We’re in this together, we’re going to get through this’.”
Dr. Smerling is offering webinars and she can be reached at Zocdoc.com or www.drksmerling.com. The PrepareU program can be accessed at www.Prepareu.live/homeedition. Additionally King’s information and more can be accessed through a Corona Resource Center at https://www.hubinternational.com/products/risk-services/hub-crisis-resources/coronavirus-resource-center/