Feeling stressed during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Here’s some tips to help reduce stress and maintain your mental health

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In the blink of an eye, the day to day life of many people has changed drastically. Parents are homeschooling their children for the first time, while potentially working from home themselves. Kids accustomed to a daily school routine have found themselves inside, unable to see their friends or spend the weekend enjoying the spring. The beaches have closed, and many families are finding their mental health challenged with the added load.

To top it off, the spread of COVID-19 is a concern for everyone. Those who work out of the home worry about protecting their health and preventing the spread when they return home.

All of this can cause elevated stress levels, which affects physical, mental, and emotional health.

“It is natural to experience anxiety during this uncertain time. The COVID-19 outbreak means new restrictions are in place to prevent the spread of the virus, disrupting our daily routines,” said LICSW, Marketing Executive with AltaPointe Health Robin Riggins. “It can be overwhelming to deal with the significant changes in working and educating children from home. And for some, job security is also a considerable concern on top of keeping everyone healthy.”

Despite the situation caused by COVID-19, there are plenty of things families can do to combat stress levels. Riggins offers a few tips that everyone can follow to help keep their stress levels low and their health high.

First and foremost, take media breaks. Stuck at home, many people find themselves on their phone or watching TV more than usual, which can lead to an overload.

“Limit you and your family’s exposure to news related to the status of the coronavirus outbreak to 15 minutes a day from a credible source or enough time to remain informed about developments,” Riggins said. “Instead, focus on productive tasks related to your family and work. Completing tasks and feeling productive is motivating and reduces stress. Remember, you have a choice as to where you place your attention, so make it worthwhile.”

An important thing to help reduce stress is to stick to a schedule. Often when our routines are interrupted, it can be easy to slip out of it and stay up later than usual, wake at a later hour, and eat at odd times. Riggins says sticking to a routine creates a sense of normalcy, and that families need to try to maintain their typical daily routines.

Another important thing is to stop fretting over the question “what if.”

“Asking what if creates anxiety related to things out of your control,” said Riggins. “For example, ‘what if I made contact with an infected person at the grocery store?’ Quickly redirect your thinking by putting it into perspective and reminding yourself of the preventative measures you are taking and acknowledge that you cannot control certain things. Acknowledge what you can control and move in that direction.”

Another way to create a sense of normalcy is to prevent social isolation. Talk to people over the phone instead of texting, or set up a FaceTime or Zoom chat so you can talk to friends and loved ones “face to face.”

It’s also important to stay active and on the move, even if it’s inside your home. Riggins says dancing to your favorite music or creating games related to movement can vastly help during the pandemic, even if the game is as simple as jogging around your home during commercials.

To everyone with children who are dealing with the loss of the schoolyear and unable to see their friends, there are plenty of things that can be done to help.

“Pay attention to your response and remain calm and reassuring,” Riggins said. “Children take their cues from you. Model healthy coping and emphasize that this is temporary. Also make an extra effort to be available and “present” with your kids. Listen and talk with them without all the usual distractions. We naturally get caught up in busy everyday routines without realizing how disconnected we become with our loved ones.”

Riggins says parents can also share with their children accurate information that is appropriate for their age. Left without accurate information, children will allow their imagination to fill in the blanks for them, which can lead to anxiety and fear.

And if the situation takes too hard a toll on your mental health, help is available.

“If you need assistance in coping with your anxiety, consider contacting BayView Professional Associates, AltaPointe Health’s private counseling program at 251-660-2360,” Riggins said. “Ask about our phone/telehealth services. Those who experience mental health conditions may be struggling more than usual during these times of uncertainty. If you are struggling, contact your local mental health provider to process your options.”

AltaPointe Health is a comprehensive behavioral health system providing counseling and psychiatric services to Mobile and Baldwin County residents. To access services for AltaPointe or if you have questions regarding your scheduled appointment, call the access to care line at 251-450-2211 or 888-335-3044. Visit https://altapointe.org for updated information related to services and information on how AltaPointe is addressing COVID-19, and follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AltaPointe/.