What to Do with Stress

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

For the past 6 months, I have been writing a weekly article for the people of Clayton County. As a member of the Clayton County Board of Health and as a physician in Clayton County, we felt there was a need to keep the public informed of what was going on in regards to COVID-19.

We, as much as anyone, know how confusing it can be.

The articles put out each week are not meant to create angst, but to aide in the understanding of where things are at during this pandemic. They are meant to be informative.

The pandemic has been overwhelming. We all feel the stress of the changes we have had to make since March.

The anxiety can sneak up on us, or smack us right in the face. It can keep us from sleeping, from concentrating and keep us from doing things with our families and friends. The fear of the disease and the angst of the changes we are trying to understand and juggle, may be as harmful to us as the disease itself.

Just as we have been taking steps to mitigate/prevent the disease, we can take steps to mitigate the stress that can come along with it.

– Managing stress can start with understanding the cause. Learn what you can about COVID-19, what to do to avoid COVID-19, what to do if you become ill with COVID-19 and how to help and care for others if they become infected. Follow medical sources for information, such as the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), Mayo Clinic, or others.

– On that same note, take time away from watching, reading and listening to too much news or social media about COVID-19 and other current events that can be stressful. It’s ok to take a two week break from all news.

– Manage what you can. You may not be able to control COVID-19, but you can avoid large crowds, wash your hands frequently and wear masks. Social distancing can create more stress. Remember, wearing masks allows us to get together with each other safely.

– Take care of your body. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise regularly. Eat healthy well balanced meals. Avoid excessive alcohol. Learn how to take deep breaths, stretch and consider learning how to meditate.

– Take time to unwind, time for yourself. Do something that you enjoy.

– Call your family and friends frequently. Make a list and rotate through them. Call a family member one day and a friend the next. Consider making a pact with a friend, a COVID-19 partner. Someone that you can call when you are having a bad day or needing to talk.

– Keep a journal, a daily diary. Doing this allows you to “dump” some of the stress you encounter in your day.

– Do things for your community. Consider volunteering.

– Reach out for help. Reach out to your medical provider. Make an appointment to discuss your options. Consider talking with someone. 

There are counselors and social workers available to help you work through the stress and learn new coping skills.

In the stress of the moment, stop, inhale for five seconds, hold it for five seconds and exhale for five seconds. Repeat 4-8 times. Resetting your breathing, can reset your brain, allowing you to regroup and start again.

These are trying times. But if we try, we can get through it. Start by trying the simple things. Everything else will fall into place. If they don’t, please ask for help. Your care providers want to hear from you.

Take care of yourselves and each other.

Remember, we are in this together.


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