It seems to be all that everyone is talking about — coronavirus. As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase worldwide, so does the amount of fear and anxiety surrounding the illness. The constant media coverage of everything coronavirus-related, from the mandated quarantines to the hand sanitizer and toilet paper shortages, has caused panic to set in for many. For those in recovery from substance abuse or mental health disorders, the added level of stress can be particularly dangerous. Now, more than ever, such individuals need to find ways to de-stress and practice self-care.
What You Can Do to Reduce Your Stress
Separate Fact from Fiction
Whether it’s due to reckless media reporting or fake news spread through social platforms, there is a lot of misinformation regarding COVID-19. Incorrect information about the virus causes unnecessary fear, which is why it is critical to get your news from reputable sources. Great resources to help you stay up-to-date include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Just remember that while staying informed is important, news fatigue is real. So, don’t be afraid to set boundaries by reducing how many times you check the news and limiting social media exposure.
“Fear of the unknown can cause anxiety within even the most relaxed of people. As this is a new virus, there is an abundance of unknowns,” says Licensed Mental Health Counselor Alexandra Helfer, who works as Mountainside’s Managing Director. Will you get sick? Will someone you know be affected? Will stores run out of food? Will transportation be impacted? These questions can pile up in your mind leaving you mentally and emotionally exhausted. While you can’t control what happens on a larger scale, there are things in your life that you can control. Acting on them can help you feel better prepared and more at ease. Some steps you can take include limiting your exposure to large crowds, avoiding contact with people who are sick, practicing proper hygiene, stocking up on food, water, and cleaning products, and coming up with a plan for what to do should you have to stay home for a few days — maybe start building up that Netflix queue, download some books, or dig out those board games from storage.
De-Stress at Home
Too much stress can suppress your immune system, which is why it is particularly important right now for you to find ways to manage your stress levels. Fortunately, there are many ways to de-stress that you can do from the comfort and safety of your home. Some simple de-stressing techniques include meditating, reading a book, taking a bath, and exercising. And if you’re thinking that you can’t work out from home, think again! You can find at-home workouts to keep your mind and body healthy right here. And of course, always be sure to listen to your body. Stress takes more of a toll on your physical well-being than you might think. If you’re feeling tired, allow yourself to rest. Be sure to stay hydrated and maintain a healthy diet.
The coronavirus has caused a myriad of events — from March Madness to Coachella — to get postponed or canceled. Businesses are switching to remote work. Even New York City trains are empty. For individuals in recovery, feeling isolated from the rest of society can be the first step toward relapse. Because of this, you need to make an effort to stay connected with others, even if you can’t leave your house. Whether it’s through texting, calling, or Facetime, be sure to have daily check-ins with your support system and your loved ones. If you can’t attend a meeting, look for a virtual meeting. To ensure that no one feels alone during this crisis, Mountainside is offering free virtual support groups for those in recovery as well as virtual support groups for their friends and family.
Focus on the Positive
When all you hear is bad news after bad news, it can be difficult to focus on the positive. However, there are some things you can be thankful for right now. For starters, the fact that you don’t have coronavirus. You’re not on a hospital bed right now hoping to recover, and that’s something to be thankful for. Other positives to focus on include getting to spend extra time with your loved ones, having more time to clean and organize your home, or even rediscover an old hobby.
Reach Out for Help
Sometimes, no amount of hand-washing or mindfulness practices are enough to quell your anxiety, and that is okay. There is no shame in admitting that you need extra help. If you feel that everything is becoming too much for you to handle, reach out for help — whether it’s a friend, family member, therapist, or support hotline. Know that you don’t have to tackle your fears and anxieties alone.