10 tips to manage stress and anxiety under the stay-at-home order

May 07, 2020 | by Laura Koehler, Psy.D.
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

Most of us have never been required to stay at home for weeks or months at a time. Yet, here we are being asked to stay at home to prevent you and others from getting a virus that did not exist a year ago.

One day you are working, shopping at various stores, and going to concerts and movies theaters. You aren’t counting how many people are in your group. The next day, everything changed.

Now you may be working from home, not working at all or your role has drastically changed to accommodate the shelter-in-place order. 

Students, teachers and parents are navigating this whole new world of e-learning. Restaurants became carry-out or delivery only. Malls, parks and salons closed. Large events like weddings, graduations and sporting events are postponed.

So, now that we’ve been home for weeks and we’re sitting with the uncertainty of when we’ll be on the other side of this pandemic, questions may be surfacing such as: How do I feel about this? What should I do? What does the future hold?

Stress and anxiety often increase when these questions cannot be answered. One thing is for certain, there is no right or wrong way to react during these unprecedented times.

Look out for these signs of stress and anxiety:

  • Unable to concentrate due to increase in worry or racing thoughts 
  • Consistent, intense physical sensations, such stomach aches or headaches
  • Lack of desire to engage in hobbies you once enjoyed
  • Not keeping up with self-care activities, such as showering or brushing your teeth
  • Seeking reassurance from your support system
  • Finding yourself repeating behaviors to calm unwanted thoughts, such as counting or checking
  • Sleeping difficulties, including difficulty falling or staying asleep, feeling fatigued throughout the day, or sleeping too much  
  • Lack of appetite or overeating
  • Constant fidgeting or difficulties sitting still
  • Feeling isolated, lonely and disconnected
  • Feeling more irritable or edgy   

Try these 10 tips for managing stress and anxiety while under a stay-at-home order:

  1. Follow a routine. Create a daily schedule to create structure to your day.   
  2. Practice good sleep hygiene. Make it a goal to go to bed and wake up around the same time, strive for 8-10 hours of sleep, resist taking daytime naps and reduce screen time right before bed.
  3. Eat well. Pay attention to hunger cues, drink plenty of water and eat nutritious food.   
  4. Exercise. Get active by going for a brisk walk or jog, take an online fitness class, take your dog for a walk, use at-home workout equipment or improve your fundamental skills of your favorite sport.
  5. Maintain social connection. Bond with family and friends by talking to them on the phone, engage in group video chats or write letters.   
  6. Make a self-care kit. Gather several self-soothe items in a bag or box to have handy when needed, such as word searches, inspirational quotes, favorite smelling lotion, pictures of loved ones, favorite candy, art supplies or much-loved lyrics.  It can be helpful to have items that connect to all five of your senses.
  7. Limit COVID-19 research/conversations. We want to stay informed but in the most effective way possible, including getting information from trustworthy sources, limiting your research about the virus to 30 minutes, and limiting conversations about it with multiple loved ones.
  8. Engage in values-driven activities. Balance each day with a variety of activities, such as work, education, social interaction, hobbies, family time, exercise and/or spirituality.
  9. Have self-compassion. This experience is new so allow yourself the space to experience different emotions, including sadness, frustration, anxiety, contentment, joy, etc. Remember there is not a right or wrong way to respond.
  10. Reach out for help. The medical and behavioral health communities have been working diligently to find a way to reach to people in this time of need. Many facilities have moved to virtual visits to allow people to stay home and practice social distancing but also get the help they may need.

If you or a member of your family would benefit from working with a therapist, please contact Linden Oaks Behavioral Health at 630-305-5027 for a free behavioral health assessment.

Get the latest coronavirus information from Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Get more information about coronavirus from Healthy Driven Chicago.

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