Stress in the Time of COVID-19: How Adults and Children Can Manage Ongoing Anxiety
We all experience stress at one point or another, and it’s a normal part of life. It can motivate us to succeed in a job interview, and it can even save our life when we encounter a bear in the woods. But what happens when we encounter that bear every day? Dealing with long-term stress – such as the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – can cause harm to our health as our body never receives the signal to calm down. Some physical symptoms may include an upset stomach and trouble sleeping. Stress can also impact our mental health if it causes us to feel worried or angry.
Below are some tips to help manage stressful times:
- Get in some movement every day.
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
- Do something relaxing, such as meditation or yoga.
- Make time for activities you enjoy.
- Keep in touch with family, friends, and others in your community.
- Be sure to get plenty of sleep.
- Take a break from social media and news media.
If you feel overwhelmed and have difficulty coping, reach out to your doctor or a health professional.
Children also deal with stress that can impact their daily lives. Parents and caregivers should watch for changes in behavior (such as excessive crying, unhealthy sleeping habits, avoidance of activities they enjoyed, and unexplained body aches).
Here are some ways to support children:
- Encourage them to talk about their concerns.
- Create a sense of structure by sticking with a routine.
- Correct misinformation, and limit exposure to social media and news media.
- Spend time together doing fun and relaxing activities.
- Be a role model, and take care of yourself because kids look to adults for how to respond. Division of Extension offers a workshop called “Taking Care of You” (https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/takingcareofyou/) which teaches adults how to reduce stress in their body, mind, and spirit.
Everyone handles stress differently, and the key is to finding what works for you. Whether or not you are experiencing stress at the moment, take some time today to focus on your own mental health and well-being. Create a self-care plan and practice it even when you are not stressed so that you are prepared for when the bear wanders into your life.
Yia Lor is a human development and relationships educator with Eau Claire County Extension as well as a Volume One contributor.