Managing Stress in the time of COVID-19
By Allison Doyle MSW, LICSWA
We are undoubtedly living through a very unique time in human history. COVID-19 has not only upended life as we know it in our neck of the woods, but also around the globe. For folks in our community, “business as usual” has not been usual for a while now, and may not be for some time. With the new “stay at home” order given by Governor Inslee recently, many people who were already feeling the stress of this unprecedented situation may have even more heightened feelings of fear and anxiety.
Although the stressors on industries and families seem confusing and overwhelming right now, one thing you can control is how well you take care of yourself and manage your emotions. Taking care of yourself is not only about improving your own capacity to navigate this new environment; it’s also about the well-being of all the people around you, who might look up to and depend on you. There are many tools and techniques people can use to reduce stress and manage their own anxiety.
Recognize your feelings. It may seem easier to suppress the stress and anxiety you may be feeling during this time. You may have children, a significant other, coworkers, or employees for whom you feel you need to be strong. Naming those feelings and recognizing what you are experiencing will lead to greater acceptance of those feelings and help you quickly identify when you need to adjust and use coping strategies.
Use breathing techniques. While this may seem strange to some people, breathing exercises can greatly reduce stress and help you feel more in control of your own body and mind when feeling overwhelmed. For example, try placing your hand over your heart and take 3 deep breaths: breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth with pursed lips. This can help relieve tension quickly and can be done virtually anywhere, anytime.
Experience nature. Many of us take for granted the beautiful area of the country we live in. Staying at home does not mean you can’t take a walk in your neighborhood or go for a jog. Try to get outside and connect with nature (while adhering to social distancing of course). Not only is it an easy way to get exercise, but it also has a way of easing stress that other tools cannot.
Communicate with friends and loved ones. For many of us, staying at home has created more time for us to talk to family and friends who we may not necessarily speak to all that often. Take the time to call or video chat with people in your life. Make time for meaningful conversations and open the door to sharing your feelings with others. You will likely find you are not the only one experiencing anxiety from the COVID-19 pandemic and it may bring you closer to those whom you love the most.
Practice grounding and calming exercises. The team at Catalyst worked together to create videos of our favorite grounding exercises. It’s available to anyone, for free: https://www.catalystcounseling.net/resources-for-our-community
Seek out a therapist if needed. This may be our new “normal” for a while now. Finding a therapist who will come alongside you during this time can help you process the uncertainty and find a path forward. Many therapists are switching to video therapy which will allow you to access support from your own home. Most insurance covers video therapy sessions.
If you are in crisis or need immediate support, please call Seattle's Crisis Connections (866-427-4747) or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255).
Although we are living through uncertain times, there are many useful tools that can help us manage stress that the COVID-19 pandemic has created. Using these tips and tools may make staying at home or coping with the unknown a bit more manageable. Stay safe and be well.
Allison Doyle MSW, LICSWA is a mental health therapist at Catalyst Counseling, in Woodinville, WA.