Handling Stress Of Social Distancing

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Written by:  Jean Ince, Howard Co. Extension Agent

Last week we all thought Covid-19 was going to be on its way out and life would return to normal. However, it looks like it may be around for several weeks and we all need to take precautions to prevent the virus from spreading. Most of us are spending more time at home, avoiding contact with others and basically our lives have turned upside down. Here are some tips to help you manage the stress of being stuck at home, either by yourself or with those you love.

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. Some common feelings are anxiety, worry, or fear over you or a loved one catching the disease. Worry about how you will meet your financial obligations or how you will get the things you need such as groceries, personal care items, and medicines. 

You may be concerned about how you will care for your children. Who is going to watch them, if you are working? You may be asking yourself, “What are we going to do with all this time on our hands?” Boredom and frustration may set in because your normal routine has changed. Frustrated at how long this will last. Loneliness and feeling like you are cut off from those you love.

So, what can you do to handle the stress of isolation? Here are some ways to help relieve the pressures.

 Keep a Healthy Diet – When you are at home it can be tempting to become a “couch potato”. Instead of grabbing that bag of chips or cookies, try snacking on fresh veggies or fruit. Try a cup of yogurt with fruit. Canned or frozen fruits are great alternatives to fresh. They are healthy choices when fresh may not be available. 

Prepare Healthy Meals – Again, it is easy to grab prepackaged foods and pop them in the microwave. Many prepackaged foods have extra fat, calories, and sodium than foods prepared from scratch. Involve the family in helping you prepare a healthy meal. Check out the website www.choosemyplate.gov to see what makes a healthy plate. On a side note, there are games and activities that teach eating right for children to do on the website. Check it out!

Enjoy Nature – If possible, get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Take a walk in your neighborhood, keeping distance between those you meet. Find activities to do with your children online that gets them outside. You might print off a scavenger hunt or keep a journal of what you see outside. Then research the insect, plant, bird or animal that you see.

Exercise! – There are many exercises you can do at home. There is plenty of research being done that connects our physical health with our mental health. Yoga, stretching or strength training exercises are great. If you still have a gaming system that involves bowling, tennis, baseball or dance moves, pull it out of storage. There are many exercise videos you can move to online. The idea is to get up and get moving!

Maintain a Sense of Routine – If you find yourself staying in your pajamas all day and you haven’t brushed your hair or teeth, maybe it’s time to evaluate your routine. Children and adults thrive on routines. Go to bed and wake up at regular times. Avoid falling into a cycle of sleeping, watching tv, eating and repeating. A routine gives purpose and wards off feelings of depression.

Make a Plan and Stick to It! – Set up a schedule of what you want to accomplish each day. Being isolated allows you time to do those chores you have been putting off. It also allows you time to start a new project! If you have children at home, set a time to play games, make a new craft, try out a new recipe, learn a new feature on your mobile device; such as, skyping, FaceTime, or new app. Read a book or start a garden by planting seeds that can be transferred to your outside garden later.

Stay Connected – Just because you are stuck at home, doesn’t mean you have to cut yourself off socially. Call someone and visit. Stay connected through email and social media. 

Limit News and Media – Constantly hearing about the coronavirus can impact your mental health. Take a break from the news on the TV or on social media. Get information and updates at specific times during the day. Make sure the information you are receiving is from a reliable source. 

These are challenging times for everyone. We will get through them and life will return to normal. The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service has several resources for financial management, managing stress, eating healthy and exercise. Check out the website www.uaex.edu for more information. 

The Scott County Extension Office is open and conducting business as much as possible. However, all meetings have been postponed for now. If we can assist you call our office at 479-637-2173. You can also keep up-to-date with activities and online webinars through our Facebook pages at Scott County Cooperative Extension Service, Scott County Extension Homemakers, or the state website at UAEX.edu

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