Managing Anxiety and Stress

Update on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Life events are common occurrences that humans experience throughout their lifetimes. While we all may not share the same events there are many overlapping experiences that unfold which shapes our future reactions, behaviors and beliefs. Events like completing high school, moving to a new neighborhood, pursuing a job promotion or selecting a major in college are events most folks are familiar with either directly or indirectly. For most people, these events are not seen as threatening since the level of anxiety is situational and temporary. Common symptoms of everyday anxiety range from dread, apprehension, jumpiness, restlessness or anticipating the worse to racing heart rates, sweaty palms, headaches, stomach burps, fatigue or inability to sleep.                                                                                                                                 

Managing Anxiety and Stress Associated with COVID-19

As members of the public, we have become overwhelmed or perhaps exhausted from the never-ending flow of data and conflicting reports associated with COVID-19. Everyone from children, tweens, teens, adults and seniors are worrying about the lasting impact COVID-19 will have upon our lives, communities and future.                                                                                                 

Whether young, senior or in-between, loss of social contacts and inability to engage in daily practices due to social distancing has potentially unforeseen consequences upon our coping, especially for those living through a traumatic event like a pandemic virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people “react differently to stressful situations.How you respond to the outbreak can depend on your background, the things that make you different from other people, and the community you live in.”1

Survival Tips and Strategies

►  Look for changes in children and teens’ behavior as they strive to deal with their fears, anxiety and worries about loss of physical contacts with peers & friends secondary to the closings of school, gyms & malls, postponed concert dates, etc. Behaviors like agitation, tantrums or emotional outbursts may increase. Ask the young what would make him or her feel safe, secure and cared for? Ask them, is there anything going on in their lives that they need God’s help with?

►  For adults and seniors, be observant for signs of social withdrawal, loneliness, loss of sleep, interest or appetite, expressed sense of hopelessness or helplessness, loss of concentration, etc. Periodically ask seniors if they are taking their prescribed medications? Are they experiencing any pain or discomfort? Ask seniors what would make him or her feel safe, valued and cared for?  

► Talk about how COVID-19 has impacted one’s beliefs, perspectives and concerns as well as placed restrictions on one’s daily routines and activities. Explain and talk about how COVID-19 is creating “new normal” for individuals and families. Share facts, listen without judgment while clarifying misinformation & myths. Define terms and concepts where needed like social distancing, self-isolation, quarantine, flattening the curve, health lifestyle options, etc.

► Establish clear expectations and boundaries since social distancing and self-isolation has limited people opportunities to “getaway” to enjoy their personal spaces and outings. Maintain a degree of flexibility and grace.

► Consider creating a collective calendar highlighting daily routines. Establish meal times for families, consider using media streaming formats to share meals remotely. Consider inputting homework assignments, exercising, cognitive activities, faith & worship events, personal reflection sessions, etc. Employed members should dress as if they are going to work to maintain their sense of focus & productivity.

► Start journaling, learn a new hobby. Write letters to senior family members. Do video chats. Engage in lifelong learning by using apps to learn new languages or skills. Teens and tweens can read bedtime stories to younger siblings or engage seniors to do so remotely. Get creative!

► Parents and other family members, lead by example! Demonstrate how to comply with handwashing and cleaning/disinfecting guidelines as well as other preventive measures. Avoid assigning blame or stigmatizing individuals or groups. Create no hassle zones to reduce conflicts.

► Practice humility and kindness. Provide reassurance, hope, show mercy and compassion, seek wisdom & practice patience. Establish positive communications & build loving relationships. Maintain your faith and trust in God.

My Prayer: Dear God, our loving Father, provide us your wisdom, knowledge, discernment, compassion and grace to handle whatever lies before us. Forgive us our missteps, extend mercy & grace where needed and offer us your peace, understanding & hope. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

Scriptures: Proverbs 3:5 & 1 Corinthians 2: 15 (ESV) @