Stress and infectious disease outbreaks:
how to manage
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. The best thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones is to know the signs of stress, how to relieve stress and when to get help.
Know the signs of stress
What follows are behavioral, physical, emotional and cognitive responses that are all common signs of anxiety and stress:
• An increase or decrease in your energy and activity levels
• An increase in your alcohol, tobacco use, or use of illegal drugs
• An increase in irritability, with outbursts of anger and frequent arguing
• Having trouble relaxing or sleeping
• Crying frequently
• Worrying excessively
• Wanting to be alone most of the time
• Blaming other people for everything
• Having difficulty communicating or listening
• Having difficulty giving or accepting help
• Inability to feel pleasure or have fun
• Having stomachaches or diarrhea
• Having headaches and other pains
• Losing your appetite or eating too much
• Sweating or having chills
• Getting tremors or muscle twitches
• Being easily startled
• Being anxious or fearful
• Feeling depressed
• Feeling guilty
• Feeling angry
• Feeling heroic, euphoric or invulnerable
• Not caring about anything
• Feeling overwhelmed by sadness
• Having trouble remembering things
• Feeling confused
• Having trouble thinking clearly and concentrating
• Having difficulty making decisions
You can manage and alleviate your stress by taking time to care for 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.
Keep yourself healthy
• Eat healthy foods, and drink water.
• Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol.
• Do not use tobacco or illegal drugs.
• Get enough sleep and rest.
• Get physical exercise.
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 and 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, mind 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.
From: Coping with Stress During Infectious Disease Outbreaks by SAMHSA.