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Presbyterian offers tips on managing stress from COVID-19

March 13, 2020 Featured Press Release

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – With the first confirmed cases of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in New Mexico, as well as school closings throughout the state, many individuals may need support managing stress for themselves and their loves ones.

The most important thing people can do is remember to take care of themselves, says Dr. Shannon Stromberg, medical director of behavioral health for Presbyterian Healthcare Services. People feel stress when they lack control or face uncertainty. As families juggle work and children at home, finding ways to maintain a normal routine that includes regular exercise, healthy meals and sleeping well is critical.

"Stress presents in so many ways," Dr. Stromberg says. "As healthcare providers, we want to make sure our patients don't overreact to the stress that they feel. It is important to continue to take care of any existing health conditions, such as diabetes or anxiety, during times of stress."

Common reactions to stress include difficulty sleeping or concentrating, irritability or anger, increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs, and excessive worry. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children may cry or worry more, and even have physical symptoms, like body pain. They may return to behaviors they have outgrown, like bedwetting, and act out more often.

To manage stress, Dr. Stromberg suggests taking breaks from news coverage of COVID-19 and engaging in self-care through activities like exercising, art, reading or talking with friends. These are the things people should be doing every day to care for themselves, Dr. Stromberg says.

Additional tips from the CDC:

  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories.
  • Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member.

If stress interferes with daily life for several days, call a healthcare provider. Presbyterian Health Plan members can connect to a licensed clinician for counseling via TalkSpace. If you are in crisis, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Disaster Distress Hotline: 1-800-985-5990.

If you think you have symptoms of COVID-19, call the state hotline at 1-855-600-3453. For up-to-date information, see the New Mexico Department of Health website.

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