Dr. John J. Hutchings is a saxophonist who has been part of our NOMC medical team for 10 years and serves on the NOMAF Board of Directors. He is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine and Psychiatry at LSU Health and also is a Gastroenterologist.
Should I be worried about the Covid-19 pandemic?
We should all be monitoring this situation closely but excessive worry doesn’t help and long-term may harm both mental and physical wellbeing.
Awareness and focus in difficult situations are good, as any amount of concern increases your ability to make important decisions quickly. Your body’s stress-response system is usually self- limiting. Once a threat passes you return to your normal functioning.
In long term stressful situations like this Covid-19 epidemic, the “fight-or-flight” reaction can remain engaged and may lead to health problems.
When excessive worry lingers for a long time there is an overproduction of stress hormones which can alter the immune system and affect the brain regions that control mood, motivation and fear.
How can l learn to process and react to stress in a healthy way?
We are no strangers to stressful events here in New Orleans. The coronavirus pandemic is the latest challenge to our community, which is causing increased anxiety for many people, even among those not typically prone to excessive worry.
If you feel “stressed out” you may be tempted to respond by exhibiting agitation, irritability or anger. You may also try to cope with your feelings by overeating, expressing negativity, or turning to drugs and/or alcohol.
If you identify any of these unhealthy behaviors or emotions you CAN make changes to take back control. First and foremost, be prepared.
Just like in hurricane season, having a plan and needed supplies is very reassuring.
Get a supply of healthy food and extra medications to help all of us ride out this unusual storm.
Help your family and friends. We are all in this together
Eat healthy! An apple and an orange a day can boost your immune system.
Get enough sleep. Lack of quality sleep affects your immune system, increases irritability and effects your judgement. Most people need about 8 hours of sleep per day. Turn off those screens and get a good night’s rest.
Don’t forget to take some down time away from the news.
Engage in physical activity. There are many online free or low-cost options to explore (yoga, meditation, etc) to help manage stress. Try reading, gardening, or pick up your instrument and learn a new song.
Finally, if your stress management efforts aren’t helpful enough on their own, contact your doctor for additional suggestions, therapy options, and/or medications that may be incorporated into your routine to improve mental and physical well-being.
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