The outbreak of COVID-19 (‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease) is stressful. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. But coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.
How you respond to the outbreak can depend on your background, your family situation and the community you live in.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, people who may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis include older people and people with chronic diseases who are at higher risk for COVID-19, children and teens and people who are helping with the response to COVID-19, like doctors and other health care providers, or first responders, and people who have mental health conditions including problems with substance use.
The stress of sheltering at home and the constant barrage of virus news can lead to fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones. It can cause changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, worsening of chronic health problems and increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with stress. Helping others cope with their stress can also make your community stronger.
THINGS YOU CAN DO
Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
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. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
- Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.
Sharing the facts about COVID-19 and understanding the actual risk to yourself and people you care about can make an outbreak less stressful. When you share accurate information about COVID-19 you can help make people feel less stressed and allow you to connect with them.
Children and teens react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. Parents can be more reassuring to others around them, especially children, if they are better prepared.
Take time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand.
Reassure your child or teen 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 family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.
STAY IN CONTACT
Feeling anxious during a disease outbreak like the coronavirus is normal, says the CDC. In fact, having some anxiety can motivate you to maintain good hygiene habits, like washing your hands more frequently and minimizing contact with other people.
Stay in contact with your support system through phone, internet and social media. This is very important. Humans are social creatures, and if you have to limit contact with loved ones, it can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. Whether you’re quarantined, social distancing, or just being careful, maintain contact with friends and family in whatever way you can.