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Combatting Stress and Anxiety in a Lab Setting and at Home

The COVID-19 pandemic is stressful for all of us. That’s a given. Many members of the research community are experiencing these events at home. But that’s not the case for many animal care employees. They are considered essential staff and continue to go to work. Research animals need food, water and daily checks and we’re all tremendously thankful for those who are providing these critical services.

However, it’s not easy. Many employees are working staggered shifts to ensure social distancing, which can be lonely and stress-inducing itself. This is why we were pleased to recently come across several tips provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness to help Americans cope with the added stress. The CDC offers some good suggestions as well.  

Here’s some of the advice provided by these sources:

Anxiety Issues?

Mental health experts remind us that knowledge is power. Understanding the factors that affect a person’s risk and immune response to COVID-19 is therefore critically important. For many Americans, the chance of serious illness is limited. 

Simply obtaining daily updates can also be anxiety-inducing. As we all track the outbreak via news coverage, it’s important to consider the source. Some news outlets and even one celebrity physician initially downplayed the dangers of the outbreak and then changed their opinion days later. This was not likely helpful for many Americans. The best resources tend to be the official ones: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. But don’t overwhelm yourself by remaining glued to news networks or online media outlets. We all need distractions. 

It’s also important to have an emotional support system at times like these. Call family members more regularly. Those conversations likely benefit those on both sides of the line. If that’s not enough or not possible, consider conversations with a counselor. Most workplaces provide these services free of charge and they do not require face-to-face meetings. 

Take Time to Unwind

While social distancing is critical, that does not bar you from taking a walk outside. CDC experts are urging Americans to try to eat a healthy diet and for many reasons, it’s also best not to overdue it when it comes to alcohol.   

How About Kids?

Many of us are unsure how much to tell our children about the outbreak. The CDC says that COVID-19 linked anxiety can cause a variety of behavioral responses in kids. These include: 

  • Excessive crying or irritation in younger children. 
  • Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bed-wetting.)
  • Excessive worry or sadness. 
  • Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits. 
  • Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens. 

Recognize these signs for what they are. The CDC also recommends talking with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer their questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand. It also may be a good idea to limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand. 

Additional tips from the CDC  can be found here. 

Posted March 20, 2020

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