#StrongerTogether: How to Handle Stress and Anxiety in Uncertain Times

March 27, 2020


KEY TAKEAWAYS

✔ Anxiety is very common, especially in a crisis

✔ It’s important to remember that we’re all in this together and you don’t need to feel alone

✔ Recognize the signs of anxiety, try to take steps to reduce anxiety, and reach out if you’re overwhelmed


Every Canadian, and in fact, everyone in the world today, is undergoing great change as they learn to navigate a new normal in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. People are worried about their health, their income and jobs, as well as their family and friends.

Anxiety is a natural response to the unknown. It’s nature’s way of trying to protect us. While any big change can bring anxiety, this crisis is unique because most of us are now in self-isolation and practicing social distancing as a way to try to control the spread of Coronavirus. As a result, at a time when Canadians need support the most, many of us are feeling alone.

We want you to know that whatever you’re feeling right now, there are millions of people feeling just like you and that your feelings are completely normal. It make may not feel like it today, but you are not alone. 

Signs of anxiety

Anxiety is very common. Before COVID-19, it was estimated that one in 10 Canadians is affected by anxiety disorders. Here are some of the symptoms and signs:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Trembling
  • Muscle tension
  • Headache
  • Chest pain or heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Feelings of unreality
  • Feelings of anger, irritability or sadness
  • Compulsive behaviours

According to the Canadian Psychological Association, stress during an infectious outbreak can include:

  • Fear and worry about your health and that of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of existing health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

Strategies to cope

Try to limit your exposure to information. While we all want to be informed and follow the guidelines set out by health authorities and governments, it can be easy to suffer information overload and see bad news everywhere. The World Health Organization recommends you limit media exposure to twice a day, especially if you’re prone to anxiety. Make sure that you are reading from reliable sources. Social media can be quick to trigger panic responses and can be the source of a lot of misinformation.

Stay connected to loved ones while in self-isolation. As many who are now working from home know, technology allows us to do things that were unheard of in the not-so-distant past. We can stay in touch even if we can’t  be physically close to one another; we can pick up the phone, text message and video chat through Skype or Zoom.

Look after your physical health. Research has proven that our physical state can affect our emotional state and that exercise has a positive effect on mood. Although you can’t go to the gym, you can exercise at home or go for a walk outside (as long as you practice social distance). Housecleaning and yard work keep you moving but have the added benefit of making you feel like you’ve accomplished something, which is helpful when things seem out of our control. Yoga and breathing exercises can help you relax. Try to get at least eight hours of sleep every night and eat as healthily as you can.

Try to focus on what you are grateful for. It can be easy to think of bad-case scenarios, but being stuck at home can bring comforts too. You can spend more time with your kids or be grateful you don’t have to do that dreaded rush-hour commute right now. Try to take some time every day to count your blessings, which will help to make you feel less overwhelmed.

If you are feeling very overwhelmed, reach out for help.

Go to Health Canada for more information.

In upcoming stories we will highlight specific issues that are top of mind for many people, especially financial difficulty as a result of the novel coronavirus. We will offer tips and resources to help you make your way through these challenging times. We hope to make you feel more in control, and lessen your anxiety.

We are all in this together.

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