We all deal with stress throughout our lives, and we all deal with stress differently. According to the National Institutes of Health, not all stress is bad. For example, stress can be a motivator when taking a test or interviewing for a new job. But for many of us, the stresses associated with the recent changes in our lives may feel overwhelming. So how can we manage this stress? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have a few suggestions:
Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise on a regular basis, get plenty of sleep, and give yourself a break if you feel stressed out.
Talk to others. Share your problems and how you are feeling and coping with a parent, friend, counselor, doctor, or pastor. Talking with someone can help you make sense out of your experience and figure out ways to feel better.
Avoid drugs and alcohol. These may seem to help, but they can create additional problems and increase the stress you are already feeling.
Take a break. If news events are causing your stress, take a break from listening or watching the news.
Recognize when you need more help. If problems continue or you are thinking about suicide, talk to a psychologist, social worker, or professional counselor.
Do you have children in your household? Even if it doesn’t seem like it, they are impacted too. It’s natural for children to worry about stressful events, like those we have experienced recently. The CDC says talking to children and monitoring what they see and hear can help. The CDC suggests the following to help children cope with stress:
Maintain a normal routine. Helping children wake up, go to sleep, and eat meals at regular times provide them a sense of stability. Going to school and participating in typical after-school activities also provide stability and extra support.
Talk, listen, and encourage expression. Create opportunities for your children to talk, but do not force them. Listen to your child’s thoughts and feelings and share some of yours. After a traumatic event, it is important for children to feel they can share their feelings and that you understand their fears and worries. Keep having these conversations. Ask them regularly how they feel in a week, in a month, and so on.
Watch and listen. Be alert for any change in behavior. Are children sleeping more or less? Are they withdrawing from friends or family? Any changes in behavior may be signs that your child is having trouble and may need support.
Reassure. Stressful events can challenge a child’s sense of safety and security. Reassure your child about his or her safety and well-being. Discuss ways that you, the school, and the community are taking steps to keep them safe.
Connect with others. Talk to other parents and your child’s teachers about ways to help your child cope. It is often helpful for parents, schools, and health professionals to work together for the well-being of all children in stressful times.
You might also try using this unique time as an opportunity. Learn a new skill, find creative ways to be active (like gardening!), or share new traditions and memories with family and friends - even if you can’t physically be in the same space. And if none of that happens, don’t be hard on yourself. Life can be messy, and I don’t know about you, but during this time of stressful events and distancing measures, I’ve recognized the importance of relationships and connection in my life. I’ve also recognized that it’s okay to have a bad day, or a bad week! But if you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others, please reach out to someone. Not sure where to turn? Resources like Wayne County’s local crisis hotline at 330-264-9029 and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 are available 24/7.
Sara Meeks is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Program Assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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