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A marathon, not a sprint: 4 tips from a psychiatrist on dealing with stress

We are all familiar with acute stressful events. Making a presentation in front of a bunch of people. Attending a funeral. The event happens, and the stress passes.

Upstate psychiatrist Thomas Schwartz, MD (photo by Jim Howe) Upstate psychiatrist Thomas Schwartz, MD (photo by Jim Howe)

“This is a different kind of stress,” psychiatrist Thomas Schwartz, MD, interim chair of Upstate’s department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, says of the COVID-19 pandemic.  “You have to have a long-haul mentality to manage this long-term stressful event.”

His advice:

-- “Social distancing means social isolation, which leads to depression,” so be proactive and follow the teens. Use social media to stay in touch with friends and family. Make phone calls. Use internet-based connections.

-- Take a break. Sit in your car to listen to your music. Scroll websites looking at antiques you don’t plan to buy. Whatever you do, Schwartz says, “don’t think about COVID-19 a couple times a day. You need a break, even if it’s five minutes.”

-- You can control some things: You can wash your hands properly, and you can practice physical distancing. Of course you can’t control everything. “Change what you can. Accept what you can’t,” he says.

-- Don’t judge yourself or others. Some people are stoic in the face of the pandemic. Others are  frozen with fright or lonely. If you can help someone wash their hands correctly, do it in a kind way. If someone is really incapacitated, don’t judge them about being weak. Help them.

These are a few tips that have helped some others manage in chronic stressful situations.

Upstate Health magazine cover for spring 2020, special coronavirus editionThis article is from the spring 2020 Upstate Health magazine, a special edition dealing with the coronavirus.