How to handle psychological stress during the COVID-19 isolation?


As many countries go on lockdown and governments are asking all of us to avoid unnecessary physical contact, I realize this can be quite a traumatic and difficult experience for some people. Just recently I have personally judged someone reacting to this crisis with humor (guilty as charged), only seconds after remembering that humor is one of the coping mechanisms that is helping to adjust to stress. 

If you are feeling anxious and even depressed during this isolation, this read will help you learn about some healthy coping mechanisms that can help you manage your stress during the lockdown. I am not a psychologist and do not hold a medical degree, but I have experienced depression and anxiety, and used therapy in the past, where I have learned the following coping techniques. I speak only from personal experience and am happy to share. No one should feel alone and scared during this crisis.

First, it is difficult to acknowledge that you are in stress. It is much easier to go in denial and keep avoiding the stress symptoms, such as insomnia, low energy levels, headaches, loss of sexual desire, upset stomach or tensed muscles. I am personally familiar with these symptoms as I know how my body reacts to stress. Given the circumstances it is normal to feel a little bit under weather, no shame in that.

Second, after you have acknowledged you are experiencing some stress, it is time to try at least one of the following things.

  • Humor: may work better for women than men (but do not worry gentlemen, there is something here for you too, just keep reading). If you feel the situation is becoming overwhelming, humor can help maintain perspective. I advise Googling some cute and clumsy animal videos or anything that will make you laugh. Laughter will reduce some muscle tension and will increase the flow of oxygen to the blood. Feeling better already?
  • Physical activity: as you cannot go to the gym during the lockdown, use everything you have got at home. Try some push-ups, squats, do a plank, work on your abs. If you have small children running around, use them as weights and have fun in the meantime. Laughter and physical activity combined together?! You must be feeling that endorphins rush already. And if your children are all grown up – acroyoga is something to try out together.  
  • Relaxation: what a perfect timing to finally take that bubble bath you never have time for. Get some candles, turn on the nature sounds from YouTube, and relax. Namaste! If you do not have a bath, explore yoga and meditation. Learn how to focus only on your breath and train awareness to your body. We often forget how to relax from our busy lives, and I can promise you, this exercise will be difficult to practice for the most workaholics out there. Just keep trying.
  • Social support: as we are all physically disconnected from one another, thanks to social media and telecommunication we still have contact. Keep sending warm messages to your loved ones, call your mom more often (yep, she is always worried), send silly face pictures to your friends, and run a contest with your colleagues on who has been most creative cook during the lockdown using only rice and spaghetti. 

Finally, I understand it is quite difficult not to follow the news nowadays. But there is no need to keep your news channel up and running 24/7 either. Just allocate a few hours of news reading into your daily routine, and you will be just fine. Apart, but still together, we can pull through those difficult times.

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