Mar 27, 2020
It’s now been a few weeks that we have lived in this new world, which has been so changed by Covid-19. Many of us are now staying at home, venturing out only to go to the grocery store or pharmacy—holding our breath as we enter the stores and disinfecting ourselves and our purchases when we arrive back at home. Every time we sneeze or cough, we wonder, “Is this it?” When we hear a person standing near us cough or sneeze, we flinch involuntarily and then feel badly that we did so. We’re starting to hear stories of friends, acquaintances, and loved ones who have fallen ill.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) tells us that it’s natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during and after a situation like this. Everyone reacts differently, and our feelings will change over time. Taking care of our emotional health during an emergency will help us think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect ourselves and our families. Self-care during an emergency will help with long-term healing.
Take the following steps to cope with a disaster:
- Take care of your body– Try to eat healthy well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep. Keep alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use to a minimum.
- Connect with others– Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships, and build a strong support system.
- Take breaks– Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Try taking in deep breaths or meditating. Try to do activities you usually enjoy.
- Stay informed– When you feel that you are missing information, you may become more stressed or nervous. Watch, listen to, or read the news for updates from officials. Be aware that there may be rumors during a crisis, especially on social media. Always check your sources and turn to reliable sources of information like your local government authorities.
- Avoid too much exposure to news– Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly.
- Seek help when needed– If distress impacts activities of your daily life for several days or weeks, talk to a clergy member, counselor, or doctor. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers a Disaster Distress Helpline, available 24/7, 365-day-a-year, which provides crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters at 1-800-985-5990.
Look out for these common signs of distress:
- 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.
If you experience these feelings or behaviors for several days in a row and are unable to carry out normal responsibilities because of them, seek professional help.
Information about Covid-19 is being updated every day and there is a lot of misinformation out there. For the most up to date information on Corona/Covid-19, visit the U.S. Center for Disease Control website www.coronavirus.gov or the official Massachusetts information page at www.mass.gov. If you see information on social media, do not believe it without checking it first with a reputable information source. Massachusetts residents who do not have a computer or the internet can call 211 for information and resources.