How to cope with the stress of COVID-19
With the constant stream of information surrounding the coronavirus disease, it’s easy to feel stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. But stress can weaken your immune system and make it harder for you to stay healthy. That’s why it’s so important to manage your stress and anxiety using healthy coping methods.
We spoke with Jen Matt, REACH Therapist at the Bismarck Cancer Center, about how to manage your COVID-19 anxiety and stress. Here are some tips she gave us:
Limit COVID-19 updates
One of the easiest ways you can reduce stress is to limit your exposure to things that trigger anxiety. Staying informed is important, but with so much new information coming out so rapidly on television and social media, it’s important to set boundaries for when and how much news you read about the pandemic. This can help keep feelings of anxiety away.
“It’s important to choose your information sources carefully,” says Matt. She recommends seeking information from trusted, reliable sources, including balanced media outlets, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and health care organizations like the Bismarck Cancer Center.
She recommends checking updates only a few times a day to keep from being overwhelmed. “Moderation is key,” says Matt, “Check in often enough to get only the information you need to know.”
Take care of your body
Stress can impact many parts of our bodies, and can cause sore muscles, shortness of breath, and even fatigue. To avoid these side effects, it’s important to take care of your body. Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and daily exercise can all help. Take a short walk, a bike ride, or spend some time outside.
“Taking a few minutes to listen to meditation or mindfulness on your phone, can be helpful when things get overwhelming,” says Matt. She adds there are many apps for smartphones that offer guided meditation to help you relax as needed, such as: Relax Meditation, Aura, Breathe, Mindfulness apps and Youtube.
Maintaining a healthy diet also plays an important part in stress management. It is also important to limit alcohol. It is linked to several cancers, including breast, colorectal and liver cancer.
Though anxiety can keep you awake, aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night so your body can reset. “It can be stressful to be in bed and not be sleeping,” says Matt. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, she recommends reading in low light or trying a mindfulness exercise to quiet your thoughts.
Talk about your fears
It’s OK to feel overwhelmed, but keeping it inside can lead to more serious mental health consequences. Sharing your fears and anxieties with loved ones may help you feel less alone. Talking about your feelings with others can also help you cope.
But, Matt says, if conversations about current world events cause more anxiety, you should avoid these topics. “It’s always helpful to process thoughts and feelings, but if talking to certain people makes you more anxious, limit your contact with them,” she says.
If this is the case for you, journaling is a good way to share your thoughts, without having to talk about them with your friends or family. By writing things down, you can cope with a range of emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis or current world events. The benefit comes from writing your thoughts, but you don’t necessarily have to let anyone read them if you don’t want to.
Use good hand hygiene
While there’s no guarantee that you or a loved one won’t get COVID-19, the best thing you can do is to manage your risks by taking precautions, including washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your eyes and staying home if you aren’t feeling well.
And, know that the safety and health of our patients and workforce members is our top priority at the Bismarck Cancer Center and that we are rapidly implementing protocols and precautions to protect you. If you have concerns, speak with your care team by sending a message to the Bismarck Cancer Center or by calling the clinic at 701-222-6100.