Managing stress and anxiety during coronavirus
By Russell ToofApril 14, 2020
SEMBACH, Germany –The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has created new challenges for everyone. Normal routines have been replaced by unfamiliar isolation and adjustments to home-life, work, and school. Fear and anxiety about the disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions.How can you avoid becoming stressed and overwhelmed?“I recommend you limit your exposure to social media and the news,” said Lt. Col. Emile Wijnans, the director of psychological health for Regional Health Command Europe. “You can alleviate stress by focusing on the things that are positive and what you can control.”According to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, stressors during a period of social distancing/quarantine can include: frustration and boredom related to the isolation, inadequate supplies and access to regular medical care, insufficient information, and fears about becoming infected and/or infecting others.“It’s important to get what rest you can, eat well and exercise when possible,” said Wijnans. “These are normal things we tell people, but they really do in fact help.”It is also recommended to stick to a routine, take small breaks throughout the day and avoid a reliance on tobacco and alcohol.“If someone is drinking heavily, it can suppress their immune system,” said Dr. Cheryl Owen, the regional manager for RHCE’s Substance Use Disorder Services. “We also know that people who drink often smoke, and that increases their risk of respiratory illness. The other issue is that drinking can also dampen your mood so if you’re already stressed out, it’s not going to help at all.”According to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, common signs of distress include: feelings of numbness, disbelief, anxiety or fear; changes in appetite, energy, and activity levels; difficulty concentrating; difficulty sleeping or nightmares and upsetting thoughts and images; physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes; worsening of chronic health problems; anger or short-temper; increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.The isolation and stress can also create friction points for married couples and those with children.“Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best,” Wijnans said. “A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone. It is important to not hold grudges and continue disagreements. Focus on strengthening the connection with your children and just remember that we are all truly doing the best we can in an impossible situation.”Psychologists also encourage you to reach out for help if needed.If you feel overwhelmed, talk to a health worker or counselor. Have a plan of where to go and how to seek help for physical and mental health needs if required.While there have been reports of a global surge of domestic violence since coronavirus lockdowns began, that has not been the case for the military in Europe, according to Janique Parnell, the RHCE Family Advocacy Program Consultant.“At this time we do not have evidence or data that would suggest an increase in domestic violence since restrictions were put in place,” said Parnell.The Family Advocacy Program is a Department of Defense program designated to address domestic abuse. For more information about the program and to find your nearest representative, visit https://www.militaryonesource.mil/For more information on how to support your health and well-being during COVID-19, visit https://www.cdc.gov/, https://phc.amedd.army.mil/covid19 or https://www.cstsonline.org/.