How can women cope with COVID-19 stress?
Women deal with stress every day, whether it be from work, relationships, children, or just typical life. However, stress is at an all-time high with the current pandemic. Thankfully, there are ways women can deal with this additional stress in a healthy manner.
According to Christine Ferens, LPCC-S, NCC, an outpatient therapist with Kettering Health Network, we’re in a collective trauma. Everyone is experiencing this pandemic, but we’re experiencing it in different ways.
“Some women are in lower socio-economic brackets who are going to have a much different experience than women who are much more financially comfortable,” says Ferens. “There are going to be women who are essential workers, and they have to go to work. There are going to be women who do not have to or have the ability to work from home.”
This pandemic is affecting everyone differently, so it is important to take stock of what you can do and not judge your productivity level based on others.
“Pay attention to what you feel you need. If someone is telling you you’re wrong or trying to shame you by saying you’re not using this time productively, try to back off from that and take care of yourself,” says Ferens.
Reasons to stress
Women have many reasons to be stressed during COVID-19. These are some things you may find yourself stressing over:
• Keeping family safe and healthy
• Making decisions as head of household
• Sending kids back to school
• Child or elder care
Coping with stress
“The acute stress that is occurring really has the potential to morph into chronic stress as time goes on. This stress should be addressed based on the tools that you have and your ability to implement them,” says Ferens.
Those tools can include grounding yourself through breathing or reaching out to others for support. Researching and finding all available information can also help you cope with stress.
“Ask questions, keep as informed as possible, and look at valid and reliable websites, so you’re not ramping up your stress level due to false or misleading information,” says Ferens. “Reaching out to other parents can be very helpful if you’re trying to make decisions about whether to send kids back to school.”
Mental health concerns
Women also experience mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety in different ways, and for some women, mental health has never been a concern of theirs.
Women who already experience anxiety and depression may see an increase in their symptoms.
But some women haven’t dealt with mental health in the past. For them, it is important to realize that mental health is just another part of your overall health.
“Mental health is just as important as physical health and spiritual health. Minding our mental health can really help our whole being be much healthier,” says Ferens. “Many mental health conditions and medical conditions can make each other worse. It is important to understand that mental health is just health. It is not something to avoid; it is not something that is bad. Mental health is just as important as our physical health.”
Check-in with yourself
With these concerns, it is essential to take a moment to sit and breathe. Even if you only have a moment a day, it is necessary to use that for self-care and to center oneself.
“A favorite breathing exercise that I teach my patients is inhaling through the nose for a count of four, and then exhaling through the mouth for a count of six,” says Ferens. “If counting is not your thing, that is okay. You just exhale longer than the inhale.”
This exercise can help calm the nervous system, so you can relax and move on to the next task of the day.
If you need help dealing with stress, connect with a counselor or additional mental health resources.