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How To Relieve Stress During Covid-19

Dr Roshan Jain

Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Apollo Hospitals, Bengaluru

5 min read

Identify signs of stress and methods to cope with it

Stress can present with behavioural, physical and cognitive features. You may notice some or all of them.

Behavioural signs of stress
  • An increase or decrease in activity levels
  • An increase in irritability, with outbursts of anger and frequent arguing, as we saw with the rise of domestic violence reports
  • Having trouble relaxing or sleeping
  • Frequent crying spells or worrying
  • Wanting to be alone most of the time
  • Blaming other people for everything, pessimism
  • Having difficulty communicating or listening
  • Having difficulty giving or accepting help
  • Inability to feel pleasure or have fun
  • An increase in alcohol, tobacco use, or use of illegal drugs as ways to cope or escape the stress
Physical signs of stress
  • Headaches and other pains
  • Losing appetite or indulging in comfort eating
  • Having stomach cramps or a feeling of diarrhoea
  • Cold sweats or chills
  • Getting shakes and tremors or having a racing heartbeat
Cognitive or thinking signs of stress
  • Having trouble remembering things
  • Having trouble thinking clearly and concentrating or feeling confused
  • Having difficulty making decisions
Related story: Covid-19—A mental health doctor explains why we are so anxious

Ways to cope with stress

Earlier people used to de-stress by going out with friends and family, enjoying a movie, exercising at the gym, or taking a holiday. Many of these stress-busting activities have been taken away from us. But now, due to restrictions, we are limited and have to find other ways to ease our stress. Here are some of the things that might work.

Get away from negativity

You will agree that social media posts, news stories, and information overload has consumed us like never before. And when it consumes us, it begins to control us. Staying up to date during a crisis is essential. But set a limit on how much time you spend reading or watching the news and social media. Stop participating in spreading fear by sharing unverified news. Make sure to take time away to focus on things in your life that are going well and are under your control.

Access correct information and advice

Ensure that you get the correct information about the pandemic from one or two credible government sources or international bodies like WHO. Don’t trust WhatsApp graduates and pandits! When in doubt, clarify with a local physician or other specialists, and seek early professional advice and timely treatment.

Never ignore self-care

Never ignore self-care

Keeping yourself healthy is essential to remain helpful to others. Start by getting enough sleep and rest. Sleep is a great de-stressor and a rejuvenator, so don’t ignore it. Get at least 8 hours at night, wake up early to start the day well. Make sleep ritualistic, keeping all gadgets away for 2 hours before bedtime and 2 hours after waking up.

Get some physical exercise daily

Get active for 30 to 45 mins, five days a week, if your age and health permit. Otherwise, any mild exercise, stretching or sun salutation is better than none. If allowed out, walking is a great way to get some activity and sunshine.

Meditate

Meditate

Practice breathing meditation or Pranayama for at least 15 minutes on waking up and before sleeping to ensure you start and end the day with a calmer mind. Meditate for 5 mins when your thoughts drift, and worries take over. Meditation can clear brain fog like nothing else. It can bring your mind to the present, away from past regrets and future concerns.

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Consume mindfully

We are overeating while stuck at home, so avoid junk food. Have a healthy diet and hydrate well; avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol intake and stay away from tobacco or illegal drugs. To endure the onslaught of external stressors, we need to remain healthy in body and mind.

Don't underestimate the benefits of relaxation

Don't underestimate the benefits of relaxation

Be practical when it comes to relaxation. Start with a structured routine throughout the day. Pace yourself between stressful times and pursuing other activities or hobbies. Take regular and frequent breaks. Look into resources that can help you manage stress—perhaps it is reading or listening to music or even watching movies or a Netflix series.
Take time to eat a healthy snack, do stretches and take a stroll around the house.

Share your thoughts

Connect with others experiencing stress to talk about feelings. Keep the conversation light, unrelated to the outbreak and talk about positive things in your life. Connect with loved ones and friends often. Remember, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved.

Pay attention to your body and emotions

Pay attention to your body and emotions

Look and respond to early warning signs of stress. Recognise how past experiences affect your thinking and feeling about the current event, and draw from your past lessons to manage stress now. Accept that feeling stressed, anxious, depressed is common in crisis.
Take time to renew your spirits through prayer, meditation, or helping others.

Seek early professional help

If stress is overwhelming and beginning to cause significant anxiety or depression and hinders work and relationships, wait no more. I recommend seeking professional help from those who understand emotions and mental health issues and offer treatment options such as counselling, therapy, and medication. Early intervention will reduce suffering and ensure early recovery. We may not have control over this crisis, but we sure can choose how we react to it.
Finally, I want to share a quote by Charlie Chaplin, who stated, “Nothing is permanent in this wicked world—not even our troubles”. Like all crises, this will also pass. While that happens, let the introspection, learning and rejuvenation continue.