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Managing stress as COVID restrictions ease | Touro

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on our lives. Public health actions, such as social distancing, are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but they can make us feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. 
Touro Family Medicine Physician Dr. Meredith Maxwell helps us become more resilient by learning how to cope with stress in a healthy way.

What signs of stress and anxiety should we look out for?

Stress can cause the following:

  • Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
  • Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
  • Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances

It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How can we feel at ease as we try to reenter work and social life after the pandemic?

First, it’s important to use the science and guidance from experts and the Centers for Disease Control as a blueprint for your behavior and stay up-to-date as it changes. For example, the CDC recently updated its guidelines for people who have been fully vaccinated, saying that they can visit with other people who are also fully vaccinated and as some unvaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or social distancing.

Here’s what else you can do:

  • Don’t go it alone – Having a companion, or someone in your life who can help alleviate your fears, can help too. This person can give emotional feedback as you gauge your comfort level with resuming public activities.
  • Take small steps – If you, a friend, or family member is experiencing anxiety about going out, don't rush. Initially, take your time and take one step at a time.
  • Be compassionate with yourself - As we adjust to yet another big change, it's more important than ever to look after ourselves and take note of how we are feeling. Taking time for yourself, staying active, eating well, and being mindful is important during another period of upheaval.
  • Create a routine - Humans are creatures of habit, which is why big changes can be difficult to cope with. Therefore, it's important to try to stick to a routine, even when things are different or uncertain. Even getting up at the same time as normal and having lunch at a certain hour can help make us feel more settled.

How can we cope with anxiety and take care of our bodies?

Our emotions, our minds, and our bodies are intimately interconnected. So, if we want to take care of our emotions, we have to take care of our bodies. How can we take care of our bodies? Get enough rest, exercise on a regular basis, and eat well.

  • Eat well means there’s no one particular diet. Eat what nourishes you.
  • Sleep well means get at least seven hours of sleep at night.
  • Exercise means, ideally, five times a week, but if you can do three times a week, then three times a week. Moderate exercise, which could just be brisk walking, for 30 minutes—10 minutes three times a day is fine. Exercising for 30 minutes a day, three to five times a week will raise the chemicals in your body called endorphins that will help you feel better.

When should you seek out help?

Sometimes no matter how hard we try to take good care of ourselves, we sometimes cave into anxiety. Some levels of stress and anxiety are normal, however, if you have symptoms that are affecting your job, relationships, and other aspects of your life, you should reach out to your healthcare provider for assistance,

If you or someone you know needs a primary care provider, you can visit touro.com/findadoc or call 504.897.7777