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De-stressing in stressing times

Special to Wesson News

You’re not sounding the alarm to friends and family just yet, but you’re down to a six-pack of toilet paper, and you’re kicking yourself for not stocking up when it was on shelves two weeks ago.

It’s just one more stress to juggle during the cur- rent COVID-19 outbreak, with health experts advising Mississippians to hole up at home, and fears about contracting the highly contagious virus a great motivator for seclusion.

Take a step back and focus on what’s in your power, not what isn’t, experts at the University of Mississippi Medical Center say. Dr. Daniel Williams, division chief in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior and associate director in the Office of Well-being, offers this advice on how to cope with a very unwelcome new normal and, quite frankly, just to get through your day:

• Try not to fixate on worrisome things, no matter how big or small, that you can’t change. You don’t have control over whether your loved ones will stay well, but you do have control over whether you practice social distancing around them, or wash hands around them.

• Focus on reality. A trip to the grocery store can be scary for those who look at empty shelves, or pictures of them on Facebook. But every day, almost all grocery stores are being restocked, Williams points out. The supply chain is working. We shouldn’t hoard food.

• Avoid information overload. Each new COVID-19 development in Italy or New York City leaves us sleepless and glued to our phone at 3 a.m. “Limit your amount of news consumption,” Williams says. “It’s tempting to stay connected to every development and update and tweet, but that creates a very stressful and anxious way of living.

• Find safe ways to get around social distancing, if contact with others is important to you. Keep up co-worker contact via email, Face Time, Zoom, Skype and old-fashioned phone calls, and keep meetings going electronically. “Just because we’re doing social distancing doesn’t mean we have to do emotional distancing,” Williams says. “Use it as a chance to reconnect with old friends. Really reach out to each other for sup- port.”

• Reduce anxiety about contracting the virus or spreading it by taking healthy actions that make you feel safe. That ranges from frequent hand washing to cleaning and disinfecting your desk or other surfaces you may encounter that can carry germs.

• Create structure in your day, whether you are stuck at home or in a work twilight zone. Set an alarm and wake up at the same time you usually do. Go to bed when you usually do. Make a list of what you want to accomplish that day.

• Good deeds and meaningful action can help you de-stress. Research shows if you are experiencing a high level of stress, serving others helps to diminish it.

• Talk about it. Some- times, if you talk about it, it comes back into perspective. “Talk it out, and process how you are feeling," says Williams. "You might find that you built some of it up in your mind to be more catastrophic than it is because you were stuck in your feelings.” “We can adjust," summarizes Williams. "Life will go on, and the sun will come up."


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