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Dealing with stress has been a big part of our response to COVID-19, expert says in WCHC presentation

The coronavirus pandemic and resultant lockdown having thrown everything out of equilibrium, disrupting our sense of normalcy, it’s no surprise that emotions have been running high. Stress is almost inevitable under the circumstances.

The normal support systems people have in place may have been out of reach for the period where contact was limited, and feelings of isolation grew to the point where anxiety became too much for some to bear, suggests Penny Bedford, a registered social worker and psychotherapist who recently gave a presentation through the Woolwich Community Health Centre.

Whether you are a child that does not fully understand what is going on, or an older adult who is more at risk of contracting the virus, no one is immune to the stress being brought on because of the current situation through which we’re all living, she said.

“Because we’re tackling new experiences around the isolation and the work from home (aspect) and the no contact (rules), I think we’re seeing an escalation in anxiety,” said Bedford.“Now it’s changing as the pandemic changes – in March, it was more significant around physical safety and not wanting to catch it. Even small things like going to the grocery store is risky behaviour. [People are thinking]‘I can’t do my normal recreation and leisure activities that I might do,’ going to the gym, even going for a walk.

“I think it’s really affecting every aspect of normal, healthy management of our lives.”

As we move to reopen more businesses and ease restrictions within the province, anxiety and fears shift away from isolation and loneliness and towards the next wave of COVID-19, she suggested.

“What I’m hearing people now talking about is the next wave. So, some anxiety about ‘oh when’s it going to hit again?’ So, as we start getting more freedom, people are bouncing into the future, talking about ‘oh my god, what’s going to happen next time’ and ‘what will I do, then.’ So again, it’s that heightened emotion that heightened awareness around what are we going to do,” she added.

Bedford said there are many things we can do to help mitigate the stress and negative emotions brought on during this crisis, including working with your body to “self-soothe,” going for a walk to get out of the self-isolating surroundings and even practicing mindfulness exercises.

Bedford recommends that everyone takes to heart not just the techniques and understanding of these particular stressors, but also a message of hope.

We will get through this and we really do have the resources and ability to manage our way through so we can find our way clear and survive, she said, noting there are good people out in the world and keep trying until you find someone with whom you connect.

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