Since mid-March, California and much of the United States has been under a shelter-at-home order in response to COVID-19. With the shutdown of all but essential businesses, the cancellation of events and school, people told to work remotely from home, and practicing social distancing, we’ve all been faced with the reality of finding a new normal overnight with no known end date in sight.
As we listen to news, witness the panic buying, and face the unknown with uncertainty and fear, we're all experiencing stress and anxiety on some level. Being told to stay home in order to save lives is hard, but it's also essential to the health of ourselves and our loved ones.
An infectious disease outbreak is stressful no matter what, but something of this magnitude is unprecedented for this generation. Many people may not know how to cope or how to help others cope, but there’s solidarity in knowing that we’re all in this together. There are ways that we can be intentional about how we respond to what we're feeling and what we cannot control.
Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety
- Fear and worry about your health and health of your loved ones
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
Ways to Cope
Avoid excessive news coverage
This includes watching TV, reading newspapers or magazines, and repeatedly checking social media. Instead, allow yourself to check the news once in the morning and once in the evening and only choose creditable news sources to check. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization.
- When you’re feeling stressed, anxious, out of control or overwhelmed, pause and take some deep breaths, stretch or meditate
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals
- Drink a lot of water and limit your caffeine and alcohol intake – these can often heighten anxious feelings
- Be active every day, even if it’s just going for a short walk
- Get plenty of sleep
- Get dressed, shower regularly, brush your teeth, comb your hair
Establish a routine
For example, if you’re now having to work remotely, and would normally get up a 6 a.m. to get ready for work, continue to do so. Habits like getting ready for work, getting dressed, and starting our day at the same time, send familiar, comforting signals to our mind and body and help us feel more in control. If you also have kids at home doing schoolwork, establish a daily routine for them too that consists of academic time, active time, creative time, quiet time, and free time.
Make time to relax and unwind
Depending on your situation, you may feel like you have more time on your hands or you may feel overwhelmed with the number of tasks you’re now responsible for (such as, worker, teacher, and caregiver). Don’t add stress to yourself by feeling like you should learn how to paint, finally organize your spare bedroom, or train for that half marathon, just to name a few examples.
Instead, use your time to do things you actually enjoy. You may even consider making it a quarantine ritual. For example, starting your day out by journaling, video chatting with your sister every Sunday at 4 p.m., reading a book before going to bed, or taking the dog for a walk at lunchtime each day.
It can be easy to feel isolated in quarantine, so make sure you’re also staying connected to friends and family by scheduling regular check-ins by video chatting, phone calls, drive-by hellos, sending cards in the mail, or any other creative ways you come up with!
Remember, we all respond differently to the extra stress and anxiety that is placed on us during a time of crisis like this. Give yourself and others grace and remind yourself that it won’t last forever, we’re all doing our part to make it through, and we’ll come out stronger as a community.
Orchard Hospital will continue to monitor the situation and communicate with staff, patients, families and its communities as information becomes available.
Per the recommendation of the CDC, anyone who believes they have been exposed to COVID 19 and develops a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, should contact their healthcare provider for medical advice. Please call ahead.