Coping with Stress During COVID-19

Change is difficult for most people, especially when you didn’t ask for or even expect these changes. Take steps to care for yourself and others during this challenging time.

Adjusting After Getting Vaccinated

The past year has taken a big mental and emotional toll on many. Just as it was hard to adjust to the countless changes to our lives since the start of the pandemic, it may also be hard adjusting to relaxing safety guidelines. It is normal to feel many different emotions.

  • Identify how you’re feeling. Figuring out your emotions can make things feel less overwhelming and help you find ways to cope. Take some time to sort through your emotions in whatever way is most productive for you – journal, talk to a loved one or spend some quiet time alone thinking.
     

  • Choose what is right for you: Be honest with yourself and your loved ones about what habits you want to keep or drop. Just because masks and social distancing are no longer required in some settings, you can still choose to continue practicing safety measures. It is okay to be cautious, especially if you are around a lot of people and do not know if they are vaccinated. Others may make a different choice and that is okay.

  • Go at your own pace: It is okay to take your time easing back into old routines. If you are feeling nervous about certain situations, such as being in a crowd of strangers, work your way up. For example, you can start with seeing loved ones without masks and build up to more public settings as you feel more comfortable.

  • Living with someone who is unable to get vaccinated: Your chance of getting COVID-19 if you are vaccinated is very low, and your risk of passing it on is even lower. But it is not zero. Every family needs to decide the level of risk they are willing to tolerate for their loved ones. If you live with someone who is unable to get vaccinated, you may want to use some additional caution when out in public.

  • Asking about vaccine status: It is okay to ask people you’re planning on spending time with if they’re vaccinated. Knowing others’ vaccine status can help you adjust your activities to lower risk, such as spending time outside or wearing masks indoors.

  • Grieving for lost loved ones: getting vaccinated may be a fresh reminder of losing a loved one to COVID-19 who didn’t get a chance to get vaccinated. It may bring new emotional distress. It is okay to grieve and reach out for support.

  • Reach out if you need help. Rely on your support system or contact the Contra Costa Crisis Center by calling 211 or texting HOPE to 20121 for 24/7 emotional support and resource referrals.

     

If you or someone you know needs help:

 
 
 

Supporting Yourself

  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs. Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. Do activities that make you happy.
     

  • Make time for yourself every day doing something nourishing, replenishing, and soothing for you.
     

  • Find a way to self-soothe using each of your five senses:

    • Vision: Look at the stars at night, look at pictures you like in a book, watch a sunrise or a sunset, take a walk

    • Hearing: Listen to soothing or invigorating music, sing to your favorite songs, pay attention to the sounds of nature, make a playlist with your favorite music

    • Smell: Use your favorite soap/lotion/shampoo, burn a scented candle or incense, walk in a wooded area and mindfully breathe in the fresh smells of nature, make cookies, bread or popcorn, open the window and smell the fresh air

    • Taste: Eat some of your favorite food, drink your favorite soothing drink like hot cocoa or herbal tea

    • Touch: Pet your dog or cat, sink into a comfortable chair in your home, take a hot bath/shower, run your hand along smooth wood or leather, wrap up in a blanket

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  • Connect with others. Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships.

  • Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking.​

  • Stay informed but avoid excessive media coverage.

     

​Supporting Children

Children react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. When caregivers handle challenges calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. 

  • Take time to talk with your child about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child can understand.
     

  • Reassure your child that they are safe. Let them know it is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
     

  • Limit your child’s media exposure. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
     

  • Help your child to have a sense of structure to their day and week.
     

  • Be a role model by taking breaks, getting plenty of sleep, exercising and eating well. Connect with your friends and family members and rely on your social support system.


 

For Frontline Workers:

  • Acknowledge that secondary traumatic stress (STS) can impact anyone during a crisis.
     

  • Monitor yourself for STS symptoms including physical (fatigue, illness) and mental (fear, withdrawal, guilt).
     

  • Allow time for you and your family to recover from responding to the outbreak.
     

  • Create a list of personal self-care activities that you enjoy, such as spending time with friends and family, exercising or reading a book.
     

  • Take a break from media coverage of COVID-19.
     

  • Ask for help if you feel overwhelmed or concerned that COVID-19 is affecting your ability to care for your loved ones or patients as you did before the outbreak.

     

 
 

Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Mental Health America