Coping with the stress and anxiety of COVID-19 can start with a change in routine. Close the laptop, get up and move around the house or outside.

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on more than physical health, the economy and first responders. It is also driving a rise in mental and behavioral health issues.

Robin Mathews, with Southwest Behavioral and Health Services, talked about coping with COVID-19 at the Oct. 8 virtual Payson Inter-Agency meeting.

She said because of COVID-19 many are experiencing very high levels of anxiety. Substance abuse, self-harm and suicide rates are all up.

“Loneliness is taking a big toll. Many feel like they have no choice in how they live their life,” Mathews said.

Added to that, when people have died during the pandemic, many were unable to say goodbye and feel guilty.

Coping tips

She said one way to deal with the stress is to practice mindfulness — be aware of your breath, take breaths so deep you can feel them from the top of your head to your feet; pay attention to the things around you (not the noise of the news).

“Deep breathing is one of the most important things to do to deal with stress, regardless of its source,” Mathews said.

To shut out the noise, listen to music, take a bath, call someone else who is alone.

Following are some suggestions for dealing with COVID-19 anxiety and stress:

• For you: avoid excessive exposure to media coverage; connect through calls, texts or internet; add extra time for stress relief; practice self-care; focus on your mental health.

• For kids: reassure them that they are safe; let them talk about their worries; share your own coping skills; limit their news exposure; create a routine and structuring.

• For quarantine and isolation: keep in contact with your loved ones via social media, texts and phone calls; create a daily self-care routine; keep yourself busy with games, books, movies; focus on new relaxation techniques.

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