These days, everyone is feeling on edge. The coronavirus pandemic has affected all of us, and some of us more than others. Our daily lives have been impacted, and for most us, disrupted — work, school, socializing, shopping and worshipping have all been curtailed. In addition, the uncertainty of when this will end, who will become sick, and how our lives will continue to be affected adds an additional layer of stress and even fear.
When you live with a chronic condition, such as diabetes, stress and worry can be compounded: you’ve got the usual self-care steps to do, like taking your medication, checking your blood sugar and planning meals. But you may have further concerns, such as making sure you have enough medication, diabetes supplies and healthy food, for example. And if you’re staying home, you may be feeling lonely, isolated and bored.
It’s completely normal to feel stressed, anxious, isolated and/or bored, especially during times like this. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to lessen these feelings and continue to care for yourself and others.
Coronavirus stress: managing worry and anxiety
Stay informed with credible sources
There is an abundance of information about coronavirus out there, and not all of it is accurate or helpful. It’s important to stay up to date about what’s happening, but choose credible sources for your information, and follow recommended instructions. In addition to watching national or local news on television, the following sources provide trusted and factual information:
Beware of misinformation about COVID-19 (coronavirus); not only is the information incorrect, it can potentially be harmful. Keep in mind that social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and TikTok, are notorious for posting false and possibly dangerous information. Check out the coronavirus myth-buster page from WHO.
Set limits to staying informed
We all need to know the facts and stay current on new developments and instructions. But spending hours and hours each day glued to the television or scrolling through social media will only add to stress, anxiety and fear. Try designating specific times of the day to catch up on the news and being on social media.
Continue with self-care behaviors
Chances are, you already have steps in place to help you manage your diabetes. Stay with your routine. For example, continue to go out for your daily walks (maintaining at least 6 feet of distance from others), prep food for your meals, check your blood sugars and take your medications.
Practice de-stressing techniques
There are a lot of healthy ways to help alleviate stress and anxiety. You may have some in place already that you use (since everyday life can be stressful!). If you need some more ideas, though, here are some tips to try:
· Move around. Whether it’s going for a walk, hopping on your exercise bike, doing a YouTube exercise video, dancing, or getting out in the yard, physical activity can seriously lower stress levels. Plus, it helps with blood sugar management, as well.
· Laugh. You may have heard that “laughter is the best medicine.” It just may be! Laughter helps carry oxygen to your cells and tissues, decreases your heart rate and blood pressure, releases endorphins and drives away tension. A good chuckle can even help support your immune system. Watch a funny movie or call a friend who makes you laugh.
· Journal. Journaling is a great way to get out your thoughts and feelings, release emotions and even solve problems. Some people find that writing about what they are grateful for is helpful for relieving stress and keeping things in perspective.
· Stay busy. Since you’re at home, use the time you have to work on home projects or hobbies. Now is the time to clean out closets and drawers, sort through pictures, paint your walls or organize your garage. Even house or apartment cleaning can do wonders!
· Relax. It may seem easier said than done, but learning how to truly relax will make a big difference in how you manage stress and anxiety. For tips on different ways to practice relaxation, check out these tips from HelpGuide.
· Rest. According to the American Institute of Stress, “Too much stress can cause you to have a bad sleep, leading to mental and physical health issues which can, in turn, cause stress in daily life, leading to poor sleep at night.” A lack of sleep can also lead to higher blood sugars. Dedicate time for getting adequate sleep (for most people, that’s about 8 hours a night). If you are wound up and have difficulty, check out tips from the National Sleep Foundation.
Dealing with loneliness and boredom
Practicing social distancing is a key part of dealing with COVID-19. The CDC defines social distancing as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet, or 2 meters) from others when possible.” You might be self-quarantining if there’s a possibility of being exposed to the virus, or in isolation if you have tested positive for COVID-19. Finding yourself suddenly distanced from people can lead to loneliness, boredom and additional feelings of stress and anxiety. Here are some tips for coping:
Switch to virtual communication
OK, it’s not exactly the same thing as physically being with others, but it’s a great way to stay in contact. Video chatting using Skype, FaceTime or Zoom lets you see people and talk and laugh with them at the same time. People are using video chats to continue with scheduled social events, too, such as book and craft clubs and happy hours.
Schedule phone calls
If Skyping isn’t for you, no worries: a phone call can go a long way to help you feel connected with friends and family.
If you are able to, check with family, friends or neighbors who might need a helping hand. Offer to pick up food, medicines and supplies for those who may have difficulty getting out.
Enjoy the outdoors
Take a stroll around your neighborhood or local park, or go for a hike. You’ll likely see others doing the same. Yes, you need to keep a safe distance, but you can still interact with other people who are in the same situation.
Keeping your mind occupied can keep loneliness and boredom at bay. How? Try reading, journaling, cooking, cleaning, drawing, knitting or doing a puzzle. Activities like these keep the neurons in your brain firing and help you creatively spend your time alone.
Look into streaming exercise classes
Most likely your gym is closed, but they may be offering virtual classes. Also, Planet Fitness is now offering free online classes to anyone over the next couple of weeks. For more information, visit the Planet Fitness website.
Learn and see new things
If you have access to the internet, the world is literally at your fingertips. Learn a new skill or try some new recipes using YouTube. Visit a museum, attend a show, tour the National Parks (all virtually, of course), or start your own blog. And all are free of charge!
If you are feeling distressed or overwhelmed, or need help with other nonessential services, the following resources are available:
· Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 (TTY 1-800-846-8517)
· 211.org: Or dial 211 to speak to someone who can help
Want to learn more about coronavirus and diabetes? Read “Coronavirus and Diabetes: What You Need to Know,” “Healthy Eating During Hard Times” and “Avoiding Coronavirus With Diabetes: Stock Up and Stay Home, CDC Says.”