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Friday April 10 2020

Stress, Anxiety and Depression Associated With the COVID-19

Government measures to control the spread and protect the population from the coronavirus are disrupting your daily routine and can physically and psychologically affect you. The present communication, which is a summarized version of the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux publication “Stress, Anxiety and Depression Associated with Coronavirus Disease COVID-192“, is meant to ease this difficult period by suggesting some ways to better address this situation 

This publication aims to prevent extreme cases of distress that can lead to suicide. We invite you to listen to yourself during this difficult time. Also, do not hesitate to support your relatives and friends even at distance. Many need comfort and support and they will not always dare to ask for it.

Available resources 

If you are feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or need help, the following resources are always available:   

Useful telephone resources 

  • Government of Québec COVID19 information line: 1 877 644-4545
  • Local Public Health Department–Centre intégré/universitaire de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS, CIUSSS, CLSC, GMF)
  • Info-Social 811 telephone psychosocial consultation service
  • Your pharmacist
  • Your doctor
  • Suicide prevention hotline: 1-866-277-3553
  • Government of Canada COVID19 information line: 1-833-784-4397 



When to seek for help? 

The following signs may indicate that it is necessary to get some help. 

  • Physical symptoms: If you feel suffocated, your heart beats faster, you have dizziness, nausea, severe sleep difficulties, a marked decrease in your appetite, or a significant lack of energy and fatigue.
  • Psychological and emotional symptoms: If you feel anxious, panicked when you hear about the virus, have negative thoughts or have a loss of pleasure and interest in activities you usually enjoy.
  • Behavioral symptoms: If you notice that you have trouble doing everyday tasks, are constantly monitoring symptoms related to the virus, lack concentration, are irritable, aggressive, cry frequently or abuse alcohol, drugs or medication. 

The above signs may mean that your personal resources no longer suffice to manage your worries on a daily basis. Seeking help could be beneficial. 


Reactions in the Context of a Pandemic 

It is normal that the current situation can generate major concerns. You may feel:  

  • Fear, stress and anxiety: In the presence of a threat, fear allows human beings to take action to defend themselves. However, when anxiety becomes too high, these actions are no longer effective. Unpredictability, the suddenness of the situation and the feeling of loss of control inevitably lead to significant stress. 
  • Sadness, depression and solitude: By being isolated, limited in activities and far from friends, colleagues and loved ones, daily life can become heavier.
  • Frustration, anger and irritability: Isolation is frustrating, especially since many people are confined at home with their children and deprived of activities and social contacts. 

Stress, anxiety and depression reactions can manifest themselves in several ways: 

  • On the physical level: It is possible that it may cause one or more of these symptoms, such as headaches, tension in the neck, gastrointestinal problems, difficulty sleeping, a decrease in appetite and energy. 
  • On the psychological and emotional levels: The pandemic context may give rise to anxiety and insecurity about the virus. This may manifest itself as a feeling of being overwhelmed, helplessness, discouraged, sad, angry, etc. 
  • On the behavioral levelManifestations can take the form of concentration or decision-making difficulties, irritability, aggressiveness, isolation and an increased use of alcohol, drugs and medication.  


Some ways to better address this situation 

Stay informed 

Lack of information or conflicting information can increase these reactions.  

  • Get informations from reliable information sources ; 
  • Beware of sensationalist news from unknown or questionable sources; take the time to validate the information with recognized official sources; 
  • While it is important to inform yourself properly, avoid overexposure to the media, as the overexposed brain is more worried. Therefore, limit the time you spend listening to and reading the news;

Take Care of Yourself 

  • Be attentive to your feelings, emotions and reactions and allow yourself to voice them to someone you trust. Write them down or express them through physical or other types of activity;
  • Make use of physical activity to let the stress out and eliminate tension;
  • Practice healthy living habits like proper nutrition and sufficient sleep. Create a routine in spite of instructions to isolate yourself; 
  • Limit your access to stressors;
  • Allow yourself life’s little pleasures such as listening to music, taking a warm bath, reading, etc.
  • Remain in contact with people that do you good.
  • Remind yourself of winning strategies you used in the past to get through difficult times.
  • Learn to delegate and let others help you (this might be asking your children to do the dishes). 

If you feel anxiety rising inside you, try to focus on actions you can take, over which you have control. Avoid letting negative ideas loop back and forth in your head. Take a break and try to distract yourself. 

Take care of yourself and your loved ones,

Rebecca Gillis




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