The world as we know it has changed due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. The number of businesses closing, people being quarantined (mandatorily or voluntarily), laws changing to contain the spread of the disease in the United States, cities invoking curfews and travel bans, and people dying is changing by the hour. If it suddenly feels as though you traveled through time and landed in the zombie apocalypse, you’re not alone.
Add to that the layered anxiety and worry that comes with having diabetes in the time of an unmitigated infectious disease (of global pandemic proportions) disaster, and it can become too much to manage. It can be a complicated mix of concern for the world, the risk to yourself, and how you feel about the risk to loved ones in an environment of uncertainties and unknown unknowns. Here are our top ways to manage the stress:
Know the Facts
Having diabetes doesn’t necessarily put you at any higher risk for getting COVID-19, but you can be susceptible to more severe complications if you acquire the disease. Do not panic. Do not get sucked down into the rabbit hole of myths and conspiracy theories. Learn the facts from reputable sources only. Following advice from The World Health Organization and the CDC are two good places to start. You may have increased anxiety around diabetes and coronavirus (that’s expected and warranted), but unnecessary stress doesn’t help, either.
Most of us are working from home these days, and while that’s an excellent way to help contain the spread of disease and protect people with preexisting conditions like diabetes, it’s also keeping many people glued to their screens for most of the day, and that means, glued to the news. Get away from your computer screen, the news, Twitter, and the chaos of Facebook for some time each day (walks outside are excellent, now that the spring weather is upon us!). Set limits on how much you watch the news (it’s crucial to stay informed, it’s not so crucial to watch CNN for 7 hours straight). Or better yet, limit screen time to evenings only.
Be Prepared, Not Panicked
There’s only so much you can do, but make sure you do it! Practice proper social distancing, hand washing techniques, stay home if you’re sick, and avoid crowded places, sick people, and high traffic areas (airports, etc.).
If you can, stock up on two weeks’ worth of food, toiletries, and medication, and make arrangements to work from home, if able. It’s understandable that most people cannot afford to stock up on fresh food and medication. More affordable, shelf-stable food items that can go a long way include canned goods and frozen vegetables, and dried beans and rice. That being said, there’s no need to necessarily hoard grocery items, as grocery stores do not have any supply-chain issues and hoarding for yourself may cause deprivation for others (although, of course, make sure you have more than enough supplies to treat low blood sugar at home). Additionally, check out our advice for obtaining additional diabetes supplies without breaking your budget during this crisis.
If your job requires in-person time (if you work in the service industry, are a healthcare worker, provide city services such as garbage collection or sanitation, or your boss simply won’t budge on a work from home arrangement), try and maintain 6 feet distance between you and others, ask for latex gloves if you work in a grocery store or are a mail carrier and touch lots of objects (be sure you know the proper way to use them!), and avoid standing near sick people. Also, wash your hands thoroughly and often. If you can find it, hand sanitizer also is extremely helpful when on the job if running water and soap aren’t readily available. COVID-19 is caused by a novel Coronavirus, meaning it’s never been seen before, and the epidemiological characteristics of the spread of the disease are still being uncovered. It’s best to use extreme caution. It’s recently been revealed that it *may* be airborne, although studies are conflicting.
After you’ve adequately prepared, don’t continue to panic. Falling to hysteria won’t help anyone, but being prepared can give you peace of mind if you’re forced to be at home for a while.
Move Your Body
Exercise is one of the main ways to decrease stress, and just because many cities are closing down their gyms, doesn’t mean you can’t move your body. Aim for a moderate activity for at least 30 minutes every single day. Warming weather can mean outdoor runs or walks, bike rides or hikes, and YouTube is an excellent resource for yoga and meditation classes and various cardio routines. Check out this article for even more ideas! You may not be able to control a lot right now, but moving your body is one concrete thing you can do to feel better.
With school closings and changing work routines, nothing feels normal right now and that can cause a lot of anxiety. Try to create some sort of structured routine (small changes can make a big difference!). Wake up at your normal time, even if you don’t have a commute right now. Make your bed every morning. Shower. Put on pants (yes, some people need a reminder to change out of their PJs when working from home!). If you usually have Tuesday night pasta night, have your Tuesday night pasta night. Sticking to a routine is especially important if you have children at home and they’re not in school currently, but a routine is healthy for everyone.
Check in on Your People
Gathering in crowds is not recommended right now, per CDC guidelines, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check in on your friends and family. Skype, FaceTime, or even good old-fashioned texts and phone calls are excellent ways to stay in touch with everyone. We’re all in this together, and reminding people that they aren’t alone is crucial right now for mental health and sanity.
Do Something Tangible
When you take away social gathering, date nights out, going to the movies, playing mini-golf, going bowling, and your kids’ weekly ballet class, everything suddenly feels…digital. Do something tangible: clean out the garage you’ve been meaning to clean out for the past 2 years, go through your clothes for Goodwill donations, repaint and rearrange a room, learn how to knit, dig around in your garden, pull out the dusty Scrabble and Scattergories games from the basement and have a game night, master your grandma’s cornbread recipe–anything that is physical will benefit you tremendously, and help peel you away from the constant stream of anxiety-provoking news.
The whole world being on pause right now might have given you license to stress-eat ice cream every night last week, or pour one too many glasses of wine over the weekend, but keeping a healthy eating routine will fuel your body and make you feel better over the long run. What feels good in the moment isn’t always the best thing for us over the long haul, and making sure we’re drinking enough water, eating plenty of vegetables, and getting good sources of protein will sustain us much better than ice cream ever could (sorry to say!).
Allow Yourself Some Grace
The world isn’t operating at 100% right now, and so it’s okay that you aren’t, either. You haven’t been able to concentrate on your work emails at all? Haven’t had the motivation to cook an elaborate meal? Not feeling optimistic about the future? Give yourself some grace, and allow yourself to slow down and feel this moment. This is a global pandemic, and (hopefully only) a once-in-a-lifetime event. Things are not normal, and it’s unreasonable to expect yourself to pretend like everything’s okay. It’s okay to not be okay right now.
Know This Is Only Temporary
Everything is in extremes right now, and it’s foreign to many of us. Maybe you’ve had to cancel travel plans, maybe you’ve had to return home from a study abroad program early, or you’re missing out on a Broadway play. Maybe you’ve even postponed your wedding. These are not normal times, and things won’t always be like this. Eventually, you will be able to go to the movies again, go to concerts with large crowds and not worry, get dinners, go bowling and grab happy hour without a care, and when you do, you can toast to happiness and good health, and getting through this horrific time, together.
How are you coping emotionally during this difficult and complicated time in the world? Share this article to help a friend, and comment your thoughts below; we would love to hear them!