What You Need to Know About COVID-19 and Stress

Wednesday, November 4, is National Stress Awareness Day 2020. The International Stress Management Association (ISMA) designates this as a day for raising publicity about the impact of stress, while promoting the importance of well-being and stress reduction for individuals and organizations. It’s an especially timely message this year, as COVID-19 cases are once again on the rise.

What is Stress?

Stress is a response to a crisis or fear. If not addressed, it can lead to mental health problems, emotional exhaustion, and physical illness. Stress can also impact your work, relationships, and family life, possibly even putting you in danger by causing you to react abnormally in situations, such as driving or having an argument.

Stress is present in our lives at almost any time, but especially now, when many Americans are entering a COVID-19 mental health crisis. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to learn to cope with stress in healthy ways.

How Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Contributing to Stress?

According to the CDC, a pandemic creates fear and anxiety about the disease itself. This can be worsened by the isolation necessitated by social distancing, which is another contributor to the current COVID-19 mental health crisis.

Some people respond more strongly to stress than others during a pandemic. You should be particularly careful if you fall into one of the following groups of people most susceptible to COVID-19 related stress:

  • Those at higher risk for COVID-19, due to age or underlying conditions
  • Children and teens
  • People who live alone or who are socially isolated
  • Anyone caring for a family member or loved one
  • Healthcare providers and first responders
  • Essential workers, such as those in the food industry
  • People with existing mental health conditions
  • Anyone with a substance use disorder
  • People who have experienced a job loss, had their work hours reduced, or experienced other major changes in employment
  • Those with a disabilities or developmental delays
  • Those lacking access to information in their primary language
  • People experiencing homelessness

What are the Effects of COVID-19 and Stress?

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can range from mild to overwhelming. People often experience one or more of the following effects:

  • Fear and worry about your health or the health of your loved ones
  • Concern over your job, financial situation, or the loss of support services you rely on
  • Changes in your sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • A worsening of chronic health problems
  • A worsening of mental health problems
  • An increased reliance on tobacco, drugs, or alcohol

What are Effective Ways to Cope with COVID-19 and Stress?

First, it’s important to arm yourself with the facts about COVID-19, instead of relying on rumors. When necessary, take a moment to pause, breathe, and notice your feelings. You can also take a break from your stress by unwinding with an activity you enjoy.

Pay extra attention to taking care of your body while experiencing stress. Do your best to eat healthy, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, avoid drugs, and the excessive use of alcohol.

Even during this time of social distancing, find ways to stay connected to others. Share your feelings with those you trust, either online, via social media, through phone calls, or by writing letters.

If you begin to feel overwhelmed, seek professional help. If you require immediate assistance, contact one of the following sources recommended by the CDC:

  • Call 911
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
  • National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
  • The Eldercare Locator: 1-800-677-1116
  • Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Crisis Chat, text: 8388255

What is the Importance of National Stress Awareness Day 2020?

National Stress Awareness Day covers a comprehensive program of events, including international online seminars, summits, interactive chats, and social media hashtagged events, as well as events at venues. You can find access to expert advice both online, as well as at ISMA sponsored events.

For treatment of the physical symptoms related to stress, or a referral to a qualified specialist, your MD Now team can help. Our stress health risk assessment is an affordable way to understand if you are at risk of certain diseases or disorders. Health risk assessments are not only recommended for individuals with risk factors, family history, or symptoms but also for those who just want peace of mind. We’re here for you extended hours, including evenings, weekends, and holidays. There’s no need for an appointment. Simply walk in at your convenience.