People’s emotional reactions to the current pandemic range from extreme emotional distress to extreme resiliency. Some people feel they are managing the pandemic well and say “I’m fine!” or “I’m getting along” when asked how they’re doing. While this may be true, that does not mean you’re not experiencing some typical emotional reactions and changes to the current situation. Below are some common experiences people have in times of stress.
Having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and/or waking up too early is a common response to stress. As we change our daily schedules (or don’t have a regular schedule anymore), our bodies react and our sleep schedule changes as well. For some effective sleep hygiene tips, click here!
I’m not getting enough done.
When NY went on PAUSE, everyone felt that they would have more time during the day! There were viral memes about Shakespeare writing a play while quarantined, and it seemed like everyone was baking, zooming, and picking up new hobbies. At the same time, so many are finding that they’re actually taking on more responsibility, and that “extra time” has vanished into the endless cycle of cooking, cleaning, working, and taking care of our physical and emotional well-being. Plus, we are constantly being inundated with news about what’s going on. It’s more than okay to just get through the day right now- that’s a big accomplishment! Be forgiving of what you are and are not able to achieve.
During times of stress, it’s totally normal to have difficulty concentrating. Our mind has to focus on a lot of other things it doesn’t normally need to focus on. Plus, we also always monitoring the pandemic in the background. We’re often asking ourselves, “Did I wash my hands?” “Why did she cough?” or “Did he come too close to me?” As a result, a lot of people are having trouble concentrating on tasks that used to be easy. It’s hard to live through history. Give yourself a break. If you want to improve your focus, try breaking tasks into small chunks and working on achieving one of those. Instead of sitting down to read for an hour, try doing it for ten minutes. If that works, great! If not, that’s okay too!
Have you found yourself yelling more at a loved one? Are you getting easily annoyed by little things? That makes total sense with what’s going on. We don’t have as many mental resources when we’re facing such a big change to our normal lives. We may be frustrated or upset easily. Try to engage in some self-care, it may just help you feel a little less on edge.
Keeping perspective and feeling grateful for what’s going right in your life is a great coping mechanism. Recognizing the positive in your life is helpful. You may still have your health and/or your job, and remembering that can help you keep perspective. At the same time, it is important to know that you can feel grateful and simultaneously feel sad or overwhelmed. You don’t have to feel guilty that you are struggling during this pandemic even if others have it worse than you.
Ways to cope!
While you may be doing okay, it’s okay to need a little help as well! Below are some helpful tips to help you cope. You can also reach out to a mental health professional if you think you need more support.
The CDC recommends frequent hand washing, avoiding close contact with others, and routine disinfecting to help us fight the spread of COVID-19. We should all be following these guidelines, but for those with contamination-related OCD, these behaviors are all too familiar. How can you tell if your behaviors are an appropriate reaction to COVID-19 or are veering into OCD?
Right now, washing our hands and disinfecting surfaces is expected, but ask yourself if what you are doing is above and beyond what is recommended or what most people you know are doing. Are you engaged in healthy protective behaviors or unhealthy coping strategies to deal with your anxiety about COVID-19? The CDC recommends washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap before eating, after going to the bathroom, after coughing or sneezing, and anytime you reenter your home after being outside or in public. Many people are being “extra cautious” and find themselves washing and cleaning more than ever before. However, are you washing your hands for a few minutes, dozens of times a day, or even when you haven’t gone anywhere? Are you wiping down the same surfaces repeatedly? Are you frequently asking others if you cleaned enough or if you did it properly? Are you constantly ruminating over whether you or your home are contaminated? Are these behaviors in themselves having a significant negative impact on your life? If so, these may be signs that your abundance of caution has crossed the line into OCD.
It is normal to feel anxious about COVID-19 and feel you are spending a lot of time and energy in both worrying about it and protecting yourself from it. However, if you feel you are struggling with the stress, or are veering into OCD behaviors, mental health professionals are available for guidance, support, and assistance in helping you learning more appropriate and healthy coping strategies.
COVID-19 has disrupted our daily lives. These changes have impacts on youths’ development and functioning. Dr. Dena Rabinowitz recently completed a Q & A to help explain the challenges children and adolescents are facing during COVID-19. Watch now to learn more.