9 Tips for Managing Stress During a Pandemic

Now that we are many weeks (that may feel like many months) into this COVID-19 pandemic, many people are becoming anxious for things to return to “normal.” As more localities are beginning to open up, many people feel the need to tell others what they should or shouldn’t do based upon their own experiences/reactions to the challenges, guidelines, and federal and state orders.

There is a double layer of concern for people who work at residential care facilities — concern about what is happening at work and what is happening at home as we face more and more exposure to other people.

At such a time as this, it’s important to remember that this is new for most of us, including medical experts and government officials. It has likely affected everyone in some way or another. Some have been able to handle the changes just fine. For others it has been stressful, but manageable. And still, for others it has been traumatic, leading to depression, post-traumatic stress (PTSD)-like symptoms, or other mental health and behavioral challenges.

So, here are some thoughts on things to keep in mind to help manage your stress during this time:

  • Everyone experiences traumatic events differently, and this is certainly no exception. Expect that you will encounter people whose experience has been different from yours.
  • Whether or not you believe this is real, political, or a conspiracy of sorts, many people have gotten sick, and many people have died. Compassion for those who have been affected is more helpful than criticism.
  • We all want and need kindness during this time (and always). It may be beneficial to think about how you would want someone to treat you or your loved one during a time of great stress. Treat the people you disagree with kindly — that is, agree to disagree, but still be respectful.
  • What is right for you may not be right for someone else. What seems wrong or like a bad idea to you may be alright for someone else.
  • To go out or not to go out — this will be an individual/family decision. Businesses have the right to stipulate rules for their establishment. You, of course, may choose not to frequent those establishments if their guidelines do not line up with what you think is right or necessary.
  • If you feel more comfortable wearing a mask, then by all means do what makes you feel the most protected. Be mindful that others may choose not to wear a mask. If you feel like a mask is not necessary, be mindful that those wearing masks may feel uncomfortable being too close to you.
  • If you are employed, and your employer has set forth guidelines that you do not agree with or are uncomfortable with, consider scheduling a time to meet with your manager to discuss your concerns. Your employer has made decisions based on what it deems is best for the masses (consumers and employees), so their decisions may not change based on that discussion. But you may be able to walk away feeling heard and respected for having approached it in a professional manner.
  • Take care of yourself! Sheltering in place can be stressful for families who are not used to spending as much time together, and isolating for people who live alone and have not been able to connect with loved ones in person. Either can lead to anxiety and/or depression, and the behaviors (often unpleasant) that result from those feelings. Be sure to participate in the activities that you enjoy to help lessen the stress.
  • Individuals with complex disabilities who already struggle with transitions and rapidly changing routines are likely to experience some difficulties as we work through the phases of the re-opening. Each response will be different, and how we support clients will have to be individualized taking into account communication and sensory needs as well as addressing anxieties and fears.

The bottom line for all of these suggestions is that when we respond compassionately, we all benefit.