How to manage stress and anxiety from the Coronavirus

By Kamyra La Fauci – Accredited Practising Dietitian

As confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Australia and across the globe, it’s no surprise that many of us are feeling overwhelmed and stressed. For most, the uncertainty surrounding the future of work, travel and fear of possible illness is driving these negative feelings and emotions, but it’s more important now than ever to prioritise our mental and physical health.

Here are our top tips on how you can effectively manage stress to support yourself during this challenging time:

  • Practice relaxation techniques – this can include yoga, meditation, meditation apps like Headspace, Smiling Mind or even Thai-Chai! These are all great ways to calm the mind and beauty of the internet is that most of these can be accessed via YouTube or from apps downloaded via the app store on your mobile so they can be performed in the comfort of your own home.
  • Invest in self-care – it’s important to take time to unwind when you are feeling stressed. Find the time to do activities you enjoy eg. listening to music, taking a bubble bath, watching a favourite movie, reading a book– the list goes on!
  • Sustain a healthy, well-balanced diet – whilst it can be easy to turn to comfort food during times of stress, prioritising nutrition is vital to boost immune function and maintain good health. Aim to consume fruit, vegetables and protein rich foods each day and limit foods high in refined sugars, fats and moderate alcohol intake.
  • Continue to exercise regularly – exercise is important for both physical and mental health. By staying active you are supporting a healthy immune system to fight infection and will reap the benefits of endorphins released after your workouts. If you’re weary about going to the gym, opt for home workouts or go for a walk outdoors instead.
  • Prioritise sleep – Sleep is the time our body repairs and restores itself and is vital for a strong and functioning immune system. It’s also is a powerful tool to alleviate stress, so aim to get 7-9 hours most nights.
  • Don’t overdo it with caffeine – Whilst stimulants like coffee and tea may provide you with an energy boost, it is only temporary and can exacerbate anxiety and disrupt sleep patterns. Switch to herbal teas or decaf instead.
  • Take breaks from social media or news outlets – If you are already feeling overwhelmed, hearing about the pandemic can exacerbate your stress and anxiety. Limit your exposure to media outlets to a reasonable amount.
  • Connect with others – talking to people you trust and expressing your feelings can be a great stress reliever. This can be done via FaceTime, Skype or phone calls if you are in social isolation and can be a safer alternative to practice social distancing as currently recommended
  • Seek professional support where needed – If you feel you need further support to deal with anxiety or stress, seek treatment from a Psychologist or Counsellor. To assist people during this difficult time, most health funds are now allowing people to claim on phone or telehealth consultations – but be sure to call your individual health fund to confirm.

And lastly, its important to remain positive and accept that future events may be out of your control. Do what you can to improve your stress levels, and in doing so your positive attitude will lift the spirits of those around you to build a stronger community.

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