Coping with Stress During Infectious Disease Outbreaks
- by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
(Department of Health and Human Services USA)
What You Should Know
When you hear, read, or watch news about an outbreak of an infectious disease, you may feel anxious and show signs of stress. These signs of stress are normal, and may be more likely or pronounced in people with loved ones in parts of the world affected by the outbreak. In the wake of an infectious disease outbreak, monitor your own physical and mental health. Know the signs of stress in yourself and your loved ones. Know how to relieve stress, and know when to get help.
Know the Signs of Stress
What follows are just some of the behavioral, physical, emotional, and cognitive responses that are all common signs of anxiety and stress. You may notice some of them after you learn about an infectious disease outbreak.
▪ An increase or decrease in your energy and activity levels
▪ Having trouble relaxing or sleeping
▪ Worrying excessively
▪ Having stomachaches, headaches and other pains
▪ Losing your appetite or eating too much
▪ Getting tremors or muscle twitches
▪ Feeling anxious, fearful, depressed, angry, heroic, euphoric, invulnerable
▪ Having trouble remembering things or feeling confused
▪ Having trouble thinking clearly and concentrating or in making decisions
Know How To Relieve Stress
You can manage and alleviate your stress by taking time to take care of yourself.
Keep Things in Perspective:
Set limits on how much time you spend reading or watching news about the outbreak. You will want to stay up to date on news of the outbreak, particularly if you have loved ones in places where many people have gotten sick. But make sure to take time away from the news to focus on things in your life that are going well and that you can control.
Get the Facts:
Find people and resources you can depend on for accurate health information. Learn from them about the outbreak and how you can protect yourself against illness, if you are at risk.
Keep Yourself Healthy:
▪ Get enough sleep and rest.
▪ Get physical exercise.
▪ Eat healthy foods, and drink water.
Use Practical Ways to Relax:
▪ Relax your body often by doing things that work for you—take deep breaths, stretch, meditate, wash your face and hands, or engage in pleasurable hobbies.
▪ Pace yourself between stressful activities, do a fun thing after a hard task.
▪ Use time off to relax—eat a good meal, read, listen to music, take a bath, or talk to family.
▪ Talk about your feelings to loved ones and friends often.
Pay Attention to Your Body, Feelings and Spirit:
▪ Recognize and heed early warning signs of stress.
▪ Recognize how your own past experiences affect your way of thinking and feeling about this event, and think of how you handled your thoughts, emotions, and behavior around past events.
▪ Know that feeling stressed, depressed, guilty, or angry is common after an event like an infectious disease outbreak, even when it does not directly threaten you.
▪ Connect with others who may be experiencing stress about the outbreak. Talk about your feelings about the outbreak, share reliable health information, and enjoy conversation unrelated to the outbreak, to remind yourself of the many important and positive things in your lives.
▪ Take time to renew your spirit through meditation, prayer, or helping others in need.