The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has the potential to increase stress and anxiety, both because of the fear of catching the virus and because of uncertainty about how it will affect us. If you have PTSD, you may have stronger stress reactions than normal. Feelings of fear, anxiety, sadness and doubt are normal during a pandemic.
Fortunately, there are tools and resources that can help you manage your mental health and well-being. The following suggestions may help you deal with stress during these times of uncertainty:
Steady breathing and muscle relaxation can help prevent stress.
- Seek support from family, friends, mentors, clergy and those who are in similar circumstances.
- Be flexible and creative in using phone, email, text messaging and video calls.
Cultivate Ways to be More Calm
- Realize that it is understandable to feel anxious and worried about what may happen.
- If you find that you are getting more stressed by watching the news, reduce your exposure, particularly prior to sleep.
- Practice slow, steady breathing and muscle relaxation, as well as any other actions that are calming for you (yoga, exercise, music, meditation).
- Try using the PTSD Coach mobile app, or PTSD Coach online for more stress reduction tools.
Improve Your Sense of Control and Ability to Endure
- Accept situations that cannot be changed and focus on what you can alter.
- Modify your definition of a “good day” to meet the current reality of the situation.
- Problem-solve and set achievable goals within the new circumstances in your life.
- Consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective.
- Celebrate successes, find things to be grateful about and take satisfaction in completing tasks, even small ones.
- Give yourself small breaks from the stress of the situation by doing something you enjoy.
- Draw upon your spirituality, those who inspire you or your personal beliefs and values.
Here’s some advice from those who have been in similar situations:
- Recognize, acknowledge and accept the reality of the situation.
- Prepare to feel overwhelmed or overly distressed. Preparation can make you feel more in control if these feelings arise and help you move through them quickly.
- If you are having a hard time making decisions, talk to a trusted family member or friend.
- Be aware that there are also behaviors that DON’T help. Learn more about these negative coping methods that you should avoid.
- Talk to your health care provider if your stress seems overwhelming. Sign into MyHealtheVet and send a Secure Message.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, text to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
Recommendations for COVID-19 may change as officials learn more, so monitor the CDC for updates.
Patricia Watson is a Navy Veteran and psychologist at VA’s National Center for PTSD