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Dr. John's Big 5: Recommendations for Managing Stress and Mental Health During COVID-19

Big Five

Courtesy of Dr. John McElligott:

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to escalate in the United States, many may be experiencing an increase in stress, fear and anxiety. The uncertainty of the future can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, however finding healthy and acceptable ways to cope with stress will make you, your family and your community stronger.

  1. Breathe, stretch and meditate - Put the brakes on stress! A stressful situation such as illness or fears can make the heart pound, breathing quicken and muscles tense. This body reaction is called “fight or flight.” This is a natural response to alert our bodies to potential danger. It can be useful at times. However, when it becomes consuming, it can leave you irritable, hypervigilant and restless. To reduce the body’s response, practice regular “nose breathing.” Take multiple deep breaths throughout the day, think and meditate on positive thoughts or images or take periodic stretch breaks to release tension in the muscles.
  2. Take care of your body - It is essential, especially during times of stress, to care for our bodies. Eat a regular healthy diet, find time to exercise daily and get adequate amounts of sleep. Older people and people with chronic diseases who are at higher risk for COVID-19 need to pay extra special attention to their bodies during these stressful times. Stress can raise heart rates, blood pressure and glucose levels.
  3. Maintain your daily routine - A daily schedule and sense of normalcy are important during times of uncertainty. It is important to be flexible during the changing times, but keeping plans and routines as normal as possible will help keep stress levels low and feelings of security high.
  4. Connect with others – During social distancing, we are alone, but remember that does not mean we are lonely. Contact friends and family by phone, text or email. Laughing and smiling can lower heart rate and reduce stress. Most importantly, know when to ask for help! If you need assistance or direction, you can always call Dr. John’s Medical at 865-438-0184
  5. Take a break from the media - The more the pandemic spreads, the more people are glued to the television, radio and social media. Watching, listening and reading about the virus can increase your feelings of anxiety and stress. Limiting the amount of daily time you and your family are exposed to the coverage can help keep your feelings and emotions in check. Spend more time focusing on healthy creative outlets that provide positive and good feelings.
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