Just when the nest had emptied, and we were ready to get out there and have some fun, along comes COVID-19, dragging stress and anxiety with it. As older moms, our adult children have gone from occasionally calling to checking up on us constantly.
It’s been exhausting, boring, lonely, and frustrating. It’s also been stressful. Here’s some self-care advice culled from sources like the CDC and the Mayo Clinic about ways to cope with pandemic-related stress and anxiety.
Is It Stress, Anxiety, or Both?
The first step to self-care in these fraught times is to understand what problem you’re trying to manage. Knowing the difference between stress and anxiety is important. They’re related, but they have different causes. Strategies you use to manage one may not work for the other.
Stress comes from an external source, but anxiety is internally generated. Severe anxiety is excessive worry, and it might even be about things that haven’t even happened. While self-care can help you de-stress, anxiety may require help from a mental health professional. If your worries don’t ease no matter what you do to relax, get help.
Be Good to Your Body
Many of the best ways to cope with pandemic-related stress and anxiety are practical, common-sense things you should be doing for yourself anyway. Get enough sleep, eat fresh, nutritious food, exercise, and avoid excess alcohol. Set aside time for your favorite type of relaxing activity, whether it’s a bubble bath, meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or a walk around the block.
Phone a Friend
One of the most stressful aspects of the pandemic has been the isolation we’ve all endured. Enlist support from friends, even if you can’t see them in person. Set up a regular call, just to chat. Reconnecting can lift your spirits, and talking to a friend about how you’re feeling makes you feel less alone.
Turn Off the News
Staying informed about the status of the pandemic is important, but obsessing about it is unhealthy. Pay attention to announcements from reputable sources like the CDC and the NIH, and limit your screen time to news sources you trust. When you’ve got the gist of it, go read a book or watch a rom-com.
Focus on Things Within Your Control
You have control over simple, smart measures to keep yourself safe, but you don’t have control over how others behave. Take the steps you deem reasonable to protect yourself. Make a plan for what you’d do and who could help if you should come down with COVID, but don’t get caught in a burgeoning spiral of “what ifs.”
Take a step back, take some deep breaths, and take one day at a time, paying attention to what’s within your control and what’s actually happening now. Then call your kids and tell them you’re fine!