After nearly two month of the outbreak of COVID-19 and enduring the worst of this pandemic, many of us have dealt with a whirlwind of emotions. We may fear and worry about our own health and the health of our loved ones, financial insecurities, loss of daily routines, and concerns about the future. You may experience anxiety or panic attacks for the first time, or be more stressed than normal.
Are these feelings normal?
Feeling overwhelmed, sad, anxious or afraid, or experiencing other symptoms of distress, such as trouble sleeping, are natural reactions to a stressful situation, such as this COVID-19 pandemic. Sometimes this may lead to physical symptoms such as shortness of
breath, rapid heartbeat, sweating, cold hands, trembling, trouble concentrating, and difficult sleeping. These are signs of anxiety and it is normal to experience this, although it may feel distressing and disabling.
In some cases, anxiety might turn into a panic attack, indicated by additional sudden and intense physical symptoms such as chest pain or discomfort, difficulty breathing, dizziness or lightheadedness, nausea or abdominal pain, and feelings like you are going to die even though you are not in any imminent danger.
What is the best way to deal with my stress?
Staying Informed: Use credible sources of information about the disease outbreak to stay up to date on what is happening, understand the risks and know how to best protect yourself. Avoid sharing unconfirmed news or rumors, since this adds to misinformation, fear and panic. Some reliable sources include:
Limit Screen Time and Exposure to Media: Although staying informed is important, too much time on the phone or computer, or watching or listening to news reports every day can increase your anxiety and fear. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media.
Keep Connected and Reach Out: Social distancing and remaining home does not mean we have to completely isolate ourselves from our loved ones. You can stay connected with family, friends and your social networks using communications such as email, social media, video conference, telephone, FaceTime or Skype. Also consider calling a neighbor or older adults and people who live alone that you know to see how they are doing and show you care.
Take Care of Your Body: Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate, which is especially beneficial when feelings of anxiety arise. To maintain your body in an optimal physical state, try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep. Also, avoid the consumption of alcohol and drugs.
Maintain Daily Routines: Keeping routines gives us a sense of control and can reduce anxiety. Try as much as possible to keep daily routines or create new ones, if needed, to help you cope with the changes.
Stay Positive: Focus on things you are grateful for and things that are going well in your life. Get courage and inspiration from positive stories of people who are finding ways to cope and remain strong.
Be Proactive About Your Basic Needs and Financial Stressors: You can advocate for yourself to make sure you have what you need, such as food and medication, to be safe and comfortable. If you are unable to work, contact your employer and discuss any options for leave. You can also contact companies that send you monthly bills and request different payment arrangements. Advocating for yourself also includes reaching out to organizations for further assistance. We understand that it may be difficult to navigate through difficult situations especially with language barriers and documentation status. We encourage you to call us at 212-256-9036 to help connect you to resources that are suited for you.
Be Thoughtful and Sensitive: Avoid assumptions and blame about who has the disease because of the way they look or where they or their families are from. There is no connection between race/ethnicity and infectious diseases. Speak up when you hear false rumors or negative stereotypes that encourage or promote racism and xenophobia. If you are being harassed due to your race, nation of origin or other identities, call 311 or visit the NYC Commission on Human Rights website and file a complaint online.
Sometimes symptoms of stress can become overwhelming despite our best efforts to self cope. It is ok to seek professional help. The following are options available for further assistance:
- Academy of Medical and Public Health Services (AMPHS): We are currently providing our services remotely. You may call us at 212-256-9036 to schedule an appointment to speak with a counselor in English or Spanish.
- NYC Well: A free and confidential mental health support service that can help New Yorkers cope. NYC Well staff are available 24/7 and can provide brief counseling and referrals to care in over 200 languages.
- Call 888-NYC-WELL (888-692-9355)
- Text “WELL” to 65173
- Chat online at https://nycwell.cityofnewyork.us/en/get-help-now/chat-with-a-counselor-now/
- NYS COVID-19 Emotional Support Helpline: Free confidential support for individuals dealing with increased anxiety due to the coronavirus emergency. They are available 8 am – 10 pm daily
- Call 1-844-863-9314