Uncertainty is Unsettling
Stress, anxiety and depression associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy and shelter-in-place orders are something that we are all feeling. The challenges we are facing right now can be overwhelming to almost anyone. It's okay to not be okay from time to time.
If you have been suffering from insomnia, nightmares, headache or fatigue, you may be experiencing symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression. If you are regularly feeling stressed out, overwhelmed and unable to cope, it's important to understand what you're feeling and to know that it is okay to ask for help.
Spot the Symptoms of Stress, Anxiety & Depression
Stress, anxiety and depression can manifest in different ways for different people. There are a variety of different symptoms and, if you're experiencing some of the symptoms listed below, it might be an indicator that you are suffering from stress, anxiety or depression.
- Muscle pain & tension
- Chest pain
- Accelerated heart rate
- Shaking or trembling
- Excessive sweating
- Upset stomach or nausea
- Lower appetite
- Lower energy or fatigue
- Virus-related worries and insecurity
- Feelings of being overwhelmed by events
- Feelings of powerlessness
- Self-verbalisation that does not always reflect reality
- Negative vision of things, situations or daily events
- Feelings of discouragement, insecurity, sadness, anger, etc.
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty in making decisions
- Irritability, moodiness or aggression
- Withdrawal, insularity
- Increased use of alcohol, drugs and/or medication
What's the Difference Between Stress, Anxiety & Depression?
Stress is a normal physiological response to an abnormal situation. We all experience stress as part of our daily lives. It enables us to adapt to new experiences like a birth, marriage, death, loss of employment, etc. Depending on the factors involved, stress will come and go on its own.
For example, if you feel stressed when you are at work but then feel less stress at home in the evening, your stress is likely work-related.
It's helpful to define anxiety in relation to fear. Fear and anxiety produce similar stress responses to certain dangers but there are important differences between the two.
Fear is a response to a well-defined and very real threat. It can be good to be afraid of some things because that fear can help to keep you safe. Example: I am afraid of spiders because of their venomous bites.
Contrary to fear, which is a response to a well-defined and very real threat, anxiety is a response to a vague or unknown threat. It's an unpleasant, vague sense of apprehension.
The sensations caused by anxiety are related to the possibility that something you fear could happen. This anxiety is not the result of a known or specific threat. Rather it comes from your mind’s interpretation of the possible dangers that could immediately arise.
Everyone experiences anxiety at their own individual degree and intensity.
Depression is defined as a passing state of lassitude, discouragement and sadness. Depression can appear in a variety of physical and psychological ways. Its intensity varies from one person to the next.
Let's Talk About Money
Financial stress spills over into all aspects of your life. Arguments with your spouse or partner, frustrations at work, and anxiety about the future can all have a root cause in financial stress. Being aware of how financial stress is affecting your mental and physical wellbeing, and your relationships can help you be mindful of when you're taking your stress out on others. Having open, clear communication with your partner about your finances can alleviate some of that stress.
Organisations such as Resilience Cayman can offer support and counselling for those struggling with bills. Please visit the Getting Assistance page for more information on getting financial assistance.
How are You Doing, Really?
Looking back over the last two weeks, how have you been feeling? If you're not sure if you've been feeling stressed, anxious or depressed, this Mood Self-Assessment from the UK's National Health Service (NHS) can help you to better identify and define the mixed feelings you may be experiencing.
What You Can Do When You Want to Feel Better
Experiencing stress, anxiety or depression during the current pandemic situation is normal. This is a new situation and you are learning how to adjust and adapt. You may be worried about what the 'new normal' is going to look like when more businesses and institutions reopen. You may be anxious about how you're going to make ends meet. There are a lot of unknowns right now and a lot of questions that can't be answered. But here's what you CAN do:
- Look for the Upside
- Take Care of Yourself
- Take Care of Others
- Get Help
- Get the Latest Updates
Keeping up-to-date on the latest changes to policy can help you feel more in control of your situation and can help you make a reintegration plan for you and your family.
Look for The Simple Joys & Focus on the Positive
Silver linings won't solve your problems but it can be as easy as finding them to change how you feel about your situation. It can be as simple as changing how you talk about curfew to be "safe at home" instead of "stuck at home" when you're experiencing cabin fever, or how our government cares about your life and your health more than the economy.
Looking for the everyday blessings of the pandemic curfews can help you change your frame of mind to be more positive and optimistic which will reduce the stress, anxiety and depression that you may be feeling.
- Read about people being Caymankind
- Listen to the calls of Cayman parrots that we've missed for so long
- Listen to and embrace the power of music
- Read about the hammerhead sharks seen near Little Cayman shores
- View pictures of drastically improving air quality in countries like China and India
- Think of how less traffic has saved time and has had a positive impact on our carbon footprint
- Reflect on the things that are different now and what you'd like to stay this way as we move forward
Show Yourself Some Compassion
Almost everyone has had their 'regular routine' disrupted by the pandemic. Trips are cancelled, businesses are closed, schools are out and many people are either trying to work from home or are at home not working. It will take time to adjust and that's okay.
Feeling Like You Became a Full-Time Teacher Overnight?
If you are at home with children you may be feeling overwhelmed trying to balance your children's education and full-time caregiving, on top of your usual responsibilities. Don't be too hard on yourself if you're not able to be on top of these new roles every day. Teachers have trained for years to be able to deliver effective childhood education.
If you are struggling with homeschooling, talk to your child's teacher to see how you can best support your child on a moderated schedule to balance the stress levels of your entire family.
Easy Ways to Improve Your Wellbeing
Taking good care of yourself in these simple ways will improve your overall wellbeing. When you take care of yourself you're better equipped to help others and the entire community will benefit from these small steps.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
- Get some exercise (Tips: How to Exercise at Home During COVID-19).
- Practice mindful breathing & meditation (Tips: How to Reduce Anxiety During COVID-19).
- Take a break from news & social media.
- Create a daily routine.
- Call a friend or check in with your family.
- Take in an online cultural event. See the Cayman Community Events calendar for upcoming community events.
- Avoid alcohol and drug use.
Sundowners Are Just Downers (Alcohol is a Depressant)
After a long day you may be looking to familiar habits or seeking out new ways to cope with your feelings and situations. While alcohol or other drug (substance) use may seem like familiar and relaxing ways to cope, they are most likely making things worse.
Alcohol is a depressant and the effect that alcohol has on your body and your behaviour can negatively impact many areas of your life including your health, relationships and overall wellbeing. If you find it challenging to abstain from alcohol or drug use, you may be developing a dependency on it and should talk to your doctor about ways to quit. You can also attend Cayman AA meetings online or call the Mental Health Helpline or the Cayman Counselling Centre for help with managing and advice.
Keeping Connected: How You can Help Others
Lend a hand, lend an ear. Curfew and shelter-in-place change the way you can help others but you can still help.
Supporting Children & Young People
Children follow your lead and live by your example. Taking care of yourself by eating well, exercising and following a routine will encourage them to do the same. Talking to them about the changes happening in their lives and their feelings about them can also help them deal with their own concerns in a healthy way.
Even if you're struggling to cope with the challenges of having your children home 24/7, try not to vent those frustrations where they can hear you. They may not be able to differentiate your frustrations with the situation in general from your disappointment with them as individuals.
Not all kids have loving, safe homes to shelter in. If you want to help kids in your community who could use another role model or a person to talk to when they're lonely, consider reaching out to organisations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, YMCA, Family Resource Centre, and offer your time or your money to make a difference for a young Caymanian.
Supporting Our Elders
Older people are incredibly vulnerable right now and many are struggling with the mental toll of increased isolation. Supporting elderly personas who may be feeling depressed due to isolation is very important. Checking in regularly and encouraging them to keep active and keep a routine can help to improve their mental and physical health. Calling your older family and neighbours regularly can help them feel more connected and less alone.
- Keeping connected with our elders
- Tips for tech savvy silver surfers
- Encourage daily at-home exercising
- Offer to pick up groceries, medicine or run errands
- Check-in weekly for a chat
- If you're exercising make sure you hail them up
- Make sure they have battery operated radios as it offers a great distraction, comfort and entertainment
I Just Called to Say "Hello"
Some of the people who are struggling the most might be the people you least expect. If you haven't heard from a friend, family member or colleague in some time, send them a text or give them a call just to check in on how they're doing. Your simple gesture can go a long way.
Be mindful of friends, families, or loved ones who who are also coping with grief or bereavement during this time. Those experiencing bereavement can also get in touch with their local pastor or the Cayman Counselling Centre at 1 (345)-949-8789.
What to do If Someone Tells You They're 'Not Okay'
We're so conditioned to say "I'm fine" when someone asks how we're doing that it can really catch you by surprise when someone admits that they're "not okay".
What to do if someone tells you they're 'not okay'
Stop and listen, with interest and compassion. Don't underestimate the power of simply listening to someone else when they're going through a rough time.
Don't try to fix the problem right now. Sometimes, giving the person a chance to talk openly about their struggles is more important and meaningful than practical help or suggestions to fix the problems.
Encourage them to seek help from you. Asking "how can I help?" or "is there something I can do for you right now?" can show how much you support them and gives them the opportunity to ask for help when they're ready for it.
Encourage them to seek professional help. If someone has confided in you that they are struggling and are concerned that they can't cope, encourage them to seek professional help. Let them know that it's okay not to be okay and that there are resources available to help them. Try to be supportive and not judgemental.
Follow up. We all struggle from time to time. Check in and follow up to show you care and let them know you're around for a chat at any time. Knowing that someone is there for you can itself be a great deal of emotional support.
If you’re seriously concerned about someone’s immediate safety, or if someone is putting others in immediate danger, call 911 for assistance.
Resources, Support & Helplines
There are numerous support lines and resources available to assist you. Whether your concerns are financial, health related, due to your domestic situation or if you just can't shake that general feeling of uneasiness that follows you around, there's someone to talk to.