9 simple things to reduce your stress during Covid-19
Oh, it’s cold and dark outside, and the holidays are over. And if you have kids in school or daycare, you worry every day about sending them – or you’re dealing with leaving them at home because of closures or no close contact.
Still, there are things you can do to boost your mental health right now, says Michelle Riba, MD, professor of psychiatry at Michigan Medicine and member of the UM Depression Center. As a psychologist specializing in the mental health of people with cancer at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center, she knows it’s important to focus on the things you can control. control when everything around you seems to be spiraling out of control.
The current surge in COVID-19 omicron cases is particularly burdensome for the patients she sees, and who have other circumstances that make them particularly susceptible to a severe case of COVID- 19, or those who just want to avoid it if possible. .
“It’s worse now than it was a year ago,” she said. “People have integrated into society, but now some are isolating again to avoid the virus. They don’t feel safe even after being vaccinated three times and being healthy, because they are worried they might have the virus. could be someone who transmits the virus to someone. Who is more vulnerable.”
On the other hand, she added, “Others are saying ‘people are going to get sick’ and just resign. But there are people with certain medical conditions that really shouldn’t get it because they could get it. get seriously ill or even die if they get vaccinated, and the more cases, the more likely these people are exposed, including someone they live with who has unknowingly brought the virus home. “
Whatever group you’re in, the first thing to do is acknowledge and recognize the emotions you’re feeling, she says. Then she recommends trying some of these important steps to help you get through this time.
1. Take control by vaccination or booster and encourage others to do the same. Vaccination, including booster doses, is the most effective way to reduce the risk of a severe case of COVID-19. Research shows that a booster dose of the vaccine can actually reduce your risk of serious illness if you have the omicron variant, so everyone over 12 should get a booster shot as soon as they’re eligible. Immunocompromised children aged 5 to 12 years can also get a third dose, starting one month after the second dose.
If you or your loved one or friend has not been fully vaccinated, or you haven’t had your child over the age of 5 vaccinated, now is the time for them or you to talk to a trusted health professional about any concerns or hesitations.
If the fear of needles or going into public places right now is holding you back or someone else, talk to a healthcare provider about ways to reduce anxiety and use self-talk Getting your vaccinations done quickly can keep you from getting very sick. short term and long term.
2. Balance the risks and benefits of direct operations – but weigh all the benefits. It’s easy to focus on disease risk, especially if you’re immunocompromised or have avoided COVID-19 so far. But the mental health benefits of social and school interactions, as well as hobbies, sports, faith-related activities and clubs, are also important.
With a well-fitting mask and vaccine protection and good ventilation, Riba advises, you can participate in the things that matter most to you. If you can make them outdoors, bundled with the cold, all the better. You might just stay indoors as an avenue of least resistance, but getting out and seeing people and doing things even for a short while, in a safe way, can really help.
“We are at a point where we all have to compromise to get through this together, not taking unnecessary risks, but also trying to avoid becoming too scared,” she said. “So go to work, school or the store, but not to a big party or bar right now. Control your risk, within reason.”
And of course, immediate medical care is important to keep up and stay safe, she notes. Don’t be afraid to visit medical facilities for vaccinations, tests, physical exams for chronic conditions or new symptoms, physical therapy, cancer screenings such as mammograms and laparoscopy as well. as scheduled activities and procedures. Make sure you wear a mask when you go, and if any vendors don’t, ask them to do so in your presence.
If you or any of your loved ones have a mental health condition, find helpful tips for dealing with pandemic stress in this toolkit developed by the Department of Psychiatry at the start of the pandemic.
3. Keep moving. January is usually the time when people start a new exercise routine and are determined to get healthy. But if you’re avoiding going to the gym right now because of the risk of infection during this spike, that can be difficult. Riba notes that years of research show that movement, exercise, and physical activity of all kinds are important for mental health. And it doesn’t need to be planned.
So, be spontaneous if the weather warms up a bit or the sun comes out – take a friend for a walk in the middle of the day or just be alone with some music on your headphones. Go to a large indoor space like a mall or museum, during off-peak hours, and walk around, including taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator if you can. Walk up and down stairs in your home or apartment building.
Getting outside during the day can actually help your circadian rhythm, help you fall asleep, and improve your mental state, says Riba. If you can’t get enough daylight or you tend to develop seasonal depression in the winter, consider buying a light box to add simulated daylight to your life.
4. Always updated but not fixed: Trying to stay up-to-date with pandemic-related news has become a habit for many people, but “flipping” on social media and news sites can become an unhealthy habit. Peel yourself off the screen, turn off app alerts on your smartphone, and pause one or more social media platforms. Allow yourself to be scheduled for “news updates” each day with a limited time when you’ll be checking out reliable sources of information.
5. Don’t give in to guilt. If you’ve avoided COVID-19 until now, but you or someone you live with or care for has experienced it, don’t feel guilty or ashamed. The omicron variant is very contagious, the number of people who are sick right now is very high, and people can get infected and spread the virus without even knowing it. Even people who have been taking precautions get sick.
So don’t beat yourself up or focus on where you caught it. If you know who you got it from, reassure them that you know they didn’t do it on purpose. If you or your sick loved one is vaccinated, be grateful that the vaccine may have made the illness less severe.
Focus on taking care of yourself or your loved one and do what you can so that others in the home don’t get sick. Follow isolation and quarantine guidelines to avoid spreading it to others. Be sure to tell the health professionals who provide the usual care for you or your loved one – especially if you or they are immunocompromised, unvaccinated, too young to be vaccinated prevent or have many medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma or lung disease, or depression. There are new drugs that can be given to the most vulnerable to try to prevent an infection from turning serious, but they are most effective when taken during the first days of infection.
If you think you or your child may have been exposed to someone else with COVID-19, tell them as soon as possible so they can take action. They may have an underlying condition that puts them at higher risk, or they may live with someone who is immunocompromised or unvaccinated, and the sooner they know it, the more they can do. than.
6. Give yourself, and others, some grace. Riba says the pressure of trying to have a “normal” life in the midst of a major surge is really affecting some people. “Give others, and yourself, grace now,” she said. “It’s like a relay race – if you’re tired or tired, give the baton to someone else to carry it. If you can’t get enough energy to prepare dinner, find out with friends. living with what you and they can do to lighten the load.It could be takeout, or getting someone else to guide you, or just eating cold cereal or peanut butter and crackers for dinner. It’s not perfect, but remember, at least everyone is fine and fed.”
7. Express yourself. Keeping your emotions calloused, letting them flare up all at once out of anger, crying, or recklessness, is a real danger, Riba notes. Rage, sadness, betrayal, loneliness, and despair are legitimate emotions right now, which can pop into your head and get worse as they unfold. They can also affect you in unwanted ways including physical symptoms like headaches, upset stomach, and fatigue.
Riba likens it to soldiers experiencing battle fatigue, after being in the danger zone for a long time. This can catch them off guard. “That’s when bad things happen,” she said. “So if you’re tired and exhausted, it’s better to say it and get some help.”
Find someone you can talk to, in person or by phone or video chat, not just text or social media. If you have a therapist, or can find one to virtualize, rely on them – but don’t be afraid to open up to a trusted friend or loved one.
8. Connect. A lot of people are feeling the same way, supporting each other even if it’s just to share a laugh, catch up on movies or shows you’ve watched recently, or make a call or video chat. regular schedule, can go a long way toward reducing stress. Engage with your faith community, both in person while wearing a mask or virtual.
Reaching out to an elderly relative you haven’t called in a while, just to say hello. Tell your friends that you’re hosting a virtual “open house” on your favorite video chat platform on a certain date and time, and invite them to visit and chat even for a few minutes. Just because the weather and the pandemic are keeping you inside doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected.
9. Serve your community. Even if feelings of selfishness and lack of care are prevalent today, that’s not true – it’s only amplified above the quiet acts of care and service that take place every day. If you are able to donate blood, donate items, food or money to charity, help with a local refugee resettlement effort, buy from a children’s fundraiser, or perform an By volunteering directly, you can help keep those quiet but important efforts going – and reassure yourself that there are people who care about the community you live in.