Managing stress and anxiety during the pandemic

The outbreak of the coronavirus and COVID-19, combined with the need for most of us to shelter at home, may be stressful for you and your family.

Dr. Dan Mordecai, a Kaiser Permanente national expert on mental health and wellness, offers these tips for managing stress and anxiety in challenging times

Keep up social connections

Maintaining social connections is one of the most important things you can do to support your own mental health as well as others. Make a point of reaching out to those you love to keep your relationships strong even as we keep our physical distance. This is especially important for those with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. Ask them how they are doing—offer to lend an ear and let them know you care.

Offer to help others

Simple gestures can mean a lot, like offering to shop for a neighbor or friend who may be more vulnerable, or letting people know you are available to help. Not only will they feel less isolated and alone, you will likely feel better as well.

Take a media break

If you find yourself spending significant time reading or watching media coverage and notice it’s making you anxious, consider limiting yourself to checking the news at just one or two times per day, and for a limited amount of time. Use trusted sources to stay up to date, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, then take a break. The CDC also has good resources on stress and coping.

Practice good self-care

Get plenty of nutrients by eating fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. We know that sleep has a direct impact on the immune system, so set a regular time each night to wind down and get some solid rest.

Modify your exercise routine

If you are exercising at home now instead of the gym, have fun with modifying your routine. There are many resources available on the internet for working out without special equipment. Exercise is good for your mental health. Here are some ideas for how to get moving without leaving home.

Take a few deep breaths

Taking time to pause for just three full, deep breaths can re-set the body’s “flight or fight” response. Try doing this several times throughout the day and see the difference it makes. This guided image exercise, which is easy to learn, is another way to help reduce stress.

Share your feelings

It’s normal, especially in times like these, to feel anxious and stressed. Know that you are not alone and that it’s ok to share your feelings with a trusted friend, family member, colleague, clergy, or your physician or mental health provider. Your kids may be feeling anxious too. Dr. David Bronstein, a Kaiser Permanente pediatric infectious disease specialist, offers common-sense tips for talking with them about the coronavirus in this video.

Practice gratitude

Practice gratitude by making a daily habit of writing down a few things you are grateful for. Better yet, send it to a friend and get them to share their list with you.

If you’re suffering from depression, anxiety, substance use, or other mental health concerns reach out to your primary care provider or call the consulting nurse.

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