COVID-19: practical ways to cope with stress and anxiety

img_1188.jpgHong Kong endured nearly 8 months of social unrest before COVID-19 hit the city in January 2020. Citizens were already facing a major mental health burden, with the medical journal The Lancet reporting that almost 2 million people in Hong Kong- about 1 in 3 adults in the city- experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) one time or another during that period. The current global pandemic only adds more worries and anxiety as people are thrusted into a “new normal”. Social distancing, economic or financial uncertainty, school closures, home learning, information overload- not to mention you, loved ones or friends getting sick or succumbing to COVID-19… The impact of this coronavirus outbreak can be overwhelming.

The following self-care strategies can help you cope.

  1. Take care of your physical health. 
    1. Get enough sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Try to stick to your typical daily schedule as much as possible. 
    2. Consume a healthful diet. salmon-fish-grilled-fish-grill-730914.jpegEat more colourful vegetables and fruits such as dark greens, carrots, and berries, which contain a lot of nutrients and antioxidants. Click here to find the top healthful foods. Ensure adequate protein intake. Consume more good fats. Avoid sugary foods/ drinks and processed foods.
    3. Avoid excessive refined sugar and junk food. Limit caffeine intake as it can aggravate stress and anxiety. Click here to learn how to avoid overeating if you are staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    4. Keep active. Daily physical activity and exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood. Even 30 minutes a day can help keep you fit and lift your mood.
    5. Avoid alcohol, drugs and smoking. If you smoke tobacco or if you vape, you are already at a higher risk of lung disease. COVID-19 affects the lungs, so your risk increases even more. Drinking alcohol reduces your coping skills and can make matters worse, not to mention it can increase your risk for pneumonia. Read more here.
  2. Avoid constant exposure to media. Constant news about COVID-19 from all types of media can fuel anxiety and fear. Get your news from a reliable source and limit your news reading or watching to once or twice a day.
  3. Focus on positive thoughts. Start each day by listing 3 or more things you are thankful for. Some people find it helpful to draw on their faith or religion to maintain a sense of hope and purpose during difficult times.
  4. Recharge by setting aside time for yourself. Some people benefit from practices such as journalling, deep breathing or meditation. Listening to nature sounds or relaxing music, reading a book or doing something you enjoy can help you relax.
  5. Build support and strengthen relationships. Stay connected with others by email, text messages, FaceTime or phone. Check in on your family members, friends and neighbours. If you can, help those who are in need. Find purpose in helping others.
  6. Get help when you need it. If you notice persistent feelings of helplessness, sadness, fear, anger or anxiety OR if you are struggling to do routine chores, having trouble concentrating or experiencing body aches/ pains/ insomnia, it is time to ask for help.

Everyone reacts differently to challenging situations, and it’s normal to feel worried, lonely or stressed. But if you feel persistently overwhelmed, reach out to someone and seek professional help.



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