Houston Methodist

Houston Methodist Psychologist shares his advice on managing COVID19-related stress and anxiety

Newswise — COVID-19 has caused social isolation, a disruption in routine and a fear in many that they will catch the virus. This type of sudden change can induce stress and anxiety. However, Houston Methodist psychologist, William Orme, Ph.D., says there are ways you can manage during these turbulent times.

  • Establish a routine and stick to it. "Routine provides a sense of regularity and stability and is very important in our lives in general,” Orme said. “Control what you can by implementing a consistent sleep schedule, planned activities and time for exercise.”
  • Get back to the basics. Orme says in this time of constant change and uncertainly, the fundamental things our bodies need adequate sleep, proper nutrition and regular exercise
  • Avoid falling into bad habits that are not helpful or healthy such as isolation, excessive alcohol consumption and the like. Think about what has worked in the past to deal with stress and try to implement these activities in your current life. He adds if a person begins to feel overwhelmed, they need to reach out for help. Do this before the stress and anxiety begin to affect work and relationships. Reaching out is a sign of strength, not weakness.
  • Take care of friends and family. “Taking care of your friends and family, especially vulnerable individuals, can help you cope with stress. Vulnerable communities like the elderly are especially worried right now, and we are worried for them. Sometimes the most helpful thing we can do for others is to simply call and listen. Many times people just want someone to vent to and are not looking for advice.”
  • Don’t worry about how others are behaving. Orme says it’s normal to feel an increase of stress and anxiety when you see people not observing new safety guidelines such as wearing a mask, washing hands or failing to adhere to social distancing rules. Instead of getting angry, focus on what you can do to keep yourself safe.
  • Be compassionate to yourself. “Be flexible with yourself during this unprecedented time. If you don’t meet all your goals, practice self-compassion,” Orme said. “Be kind to yourself, and kind to those around you. If you don’t get your to-do list done, it’s OK. It’s more of a marathon than a sprint.”

If you need help, reach out. “Stress is an embodied physiologic reaction to things. If it’s starting to feel unmanageable, get help,” Orme said. “Don’t wait until it’s overwhelming and gets in the way of connecting with friends, communities and jobs. These are the moments in life, often the hardest moments, when we need to reach out.”

Don’t forget, reaching out when you need help is a sign of strength, not weakness, according to Orme.

 

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