Oliver: Feeling stressed? Here’s a few things to do to feel better

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

How are we all holding up? Feeling a little nervous about everything?

These are strange times indeed.

Still, we are a week closer to this COVID-19 crisis being over than we were at this time last week. Sometimes that’s hard to keep in the front of our minds. However, the reality of it all is that this too shall pass.

The stress many of us are feeling is real, and we need to acknowledge it. With each grim bit of news comes more fear of getting sick, fear of our loved ones getting sick and fear of the unknown. When our jobs are suddenly gone, it’s hard not to worry about how we will take care of our families.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledge that we all handle stress differently based on our background and the community in which we live. Here in McHenry County, we’re pretty resilient, but there’s no need to deny that we’re feeling a bit overwhelmed right now.

Signs that we might be having a hard time, according to the CDC, include experiencing fear and worry about our own health and the health of our loved ones, changes in our sleep or eating patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, worsening of chronic health problems and increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs. Being angry and having a short temper, as well as physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems and skin rashes, also are signs of distress.

The situation can even be worse for those who already have mental health conditions. They especially need to continue with their treatment and monitor themselves for new or worsening symptoms, according to the CDC.

We all need to take care of ourselves, our friends and our families. That means also helping them cope with their stress.

The CDC offers a few tips for things we can do to manage our stress levels.

• Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to reports about the outbreak, including on social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.

• Of course, the CDC also wants us to stay informed. Know the facts about COVID-19 and understand the actual risk to us and those we care about. Make sure you get your information from health officials and credible news outlets. Be aware that there are a lot of rumors out there about the virus, especially on social media. Be careful about the sources you use for information.

• Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs.

• Make time to unwind. Try to do activities that you enjoy.

• Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. This can be done by text, phone call or video chats. Maintain healthy relationships and build a strong support system.

The CDC also recommends calling a health care provider if your stress level gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.

You also can get help 24/7 by calling the Northwestern Medicine Crisis Services Line at 800-892-8900. They can talk you through a crisis situation and direct you to mental health services.

Is the situation we find ourselves in scary? Yes.

However, if we work to help each other keep calm and carry on, we’ll all get through this.

Probably stronger than before.

• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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