Many of us are facing challenges that can be stressful, overwhelming, and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as physical distancing, can make us feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety.
After a traumatic event, people may have strong and lingering reactions. Learning healthy ways to cope and getting the right care and support can help reduce stressful feelings and symptoms.
The symptoms may be physical or emotional. Common reactions to a stressful event can include:
Feelings of fear, shock, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
Difficulty sleeping or nightmares, concentrating, and making decisions
Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
Worsening of chronic health problems
Worsening of mental health conditions
Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances
It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during traumatic events such as mass shootings, natural disasters, or pandemics. Below are ways that you can help yourself, others, and your community manage stress.
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Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress
Feeling emotional and nervous or having trouble sleeping and eating can all be normal reactions to stress. Here are some healthy ways you can deal with stress:
Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. It’s good to be informed but hearing about the traumatic event constantly can be upsetting. Consider limiting news to just a couple of times a day and disconnecting from phone, tv, and computer screens for a while.
Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and give yourself a break if you feel stressed out.
Take care of your body.
Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
Get plenty of sleep.
Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use.
Continue with routine preventive measures (such as vaccinations, cancer screenings, etc.) as recommended by your healthcare provider.
Get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible; get a booster shot if you are age 18 or older.
Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
Talk to others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. Share your problems and how you are feeling and coping with a parent, friend, counselor, doctor, or pastor.
Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations.
Avoid drugs and alcohol. These may seem to help, but they can create additional problems and increase the stress you are already feeling.
Recognize when you need more help. If problems continue or you are thinking about suicide, talk to a psychologist, social worker, or professional counselor.Helping Others Cope
Taking care of yourself can better equip you to take care of others. Helping others cope with stress through phone calls or video chats can help you and your loved ones feel less lonely or isolated.
Helping Children and Youth Cope with Stress
Children and youth often struggle with how to cope with stress. Youth can be particularly overwhelmed when their stress is connected to a traumatic event—like a natural disaster, family loss, school shootings, or community violence. Parents, caregivers, and educators can take steps to provide stability and support that help young people feel better.