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UT Extension Hot Topics – Coping with COVID-19

By Rachel Bradshaw

During this time of uncertainty and change, many are experiencing greater levels of stress and anxiety. Many of us are isolated, managing a chaotic work-life balance, and caring for children. Many are part of the frontline, working tirelessly to care for the ill, or providing essential services to meet our basic needs. Whatever the situation may be, families are experiencing stress and hardship more than ever.

Stress and anxiety look different for everyone. Common signs of stress in adults are disrupted sleep, change in eating patterns, inability to concentrate, feelings of depression, and worsening health symptoms of chronic physical or mental health conditions.

Your mental well-being is important. Try these methods to reduce stress while maintaining social distance:

Find information from trusted sources. To avoid misinformation, use a source that cites data from reputable health organizations, such as the health department, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization.

Set media boundaries. Find a trusted source and set a time of day to read updates – overuse of media coverage intensifies anxiety.

Connect. Be socially distant, not socially isolated. Meet over videoconferencing technology, write an e-mail, or drop a letter in the mail to friends or family.

Practice self-care. Reserve time for yourself to feel good! Go on a walk, unwind with a hobby, or find an activity you enjoy!

Children also experience stress during a crisis. Common signs of stress in children include increased outbursts, changes in sleep and eating patterns, avoidance of activities that bring join, unexplained physical health symptoms, and returning to behavior they have outgrown.

Try these strategies to help reduce stress in children:

• Reassure that social distancing is for everyone’s safety and that this is temporary. Openly listen to children’s questions, share age-appropriate information, stick to the facts, and avoid sharing misinformation.

• Establish a predictable routine that your family can count on day to day. Feeling out of control is common during this time, so providing routine can bring about a sense of normalcy. Offer children enriching activities to keep them occupied while also learning and having fun.

• Regulate your own emotions and help others with theirs by practicing and modeling self-care. Be especially compassionate to those who are experiencing heightened emotions during this time. Maintain optimism and strengths-based viewpoints about the situation, such as focusing on positive ways our community is coming together to support one another to enhance children’s feelings of security.

Questions about managing stress, finances, or nutrition during these challenging times? Contact UT Extension’s Family & Consumer Science Agent, Rachel Bradshaw, at [email protected] Program announcements and timely resources can also be found on the local UT Extension Facebook page at