COVID-19: Managing Your Oral Health, Stress and Anxiety

In the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has ordered dental practices and all healthcare facilities to prioritize emergency visits and procedures for the coming weeks. However, advisories continue to be updated daily during this crisis. Our patients’ overall health remains our paramount goal. Please contact our office should you have any dental emergencies or concerns about your oral health. Dr. Askari is prepared to offer consultations remotely.

Dr. Askari knows too that many patients and their families are experiencing some stress and anxiety about the COVID-19 outbreak. Seemingly everywhere you turn are news reports, social media warnings, and various levels of panic. But it’s important to keep things in perspective so you can continue to care for yourself and others as we all weather this together. 

In addition to following directives such as social distancing and other public health precautions from local, state, and federal officials, it’s equally important to manage your stress and help others around you do the same. To help you do that, Dr. Askari offers the following suggestions.

Why it’s important to manage your stress

Unchecked stress damages your body and brain. The short-term effects include elevated heart rate and blood pressure, tightened muscles, and rapid breathing. In essence, it puts your body and mind on high alert to help you react to danger. But you’re not meant to stay in that state for long. Sustained anxiety and stress lead to:

While this is only a partial list of the long-term effects of unmanaged stress and anxiety, it gives you a good picture of the potential damage it can cause. During the COVID-19 outbreak, you can give yourself and your loved ones an advantage by controlling unnecessary stress and staying as healthy as possible both mentally and physically. 

How to manage stress during the COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 is contagious, but so are emotions. Taking steps to keep yourself and others calm can have a positive ripple effect. As you care for yourself and others, it naturally lowers your stress levels and theirs, and their calmer demeanor, in turn, impacts others. Here are some practical steps to manage your COVID-19 stress:

Stay informed

COVID-19 is a novel virus, which means we are rapidly learning how it spreads and how people respond to it. Make sure you’re getting accurate information from trusted sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization

Take a break

While it’s important to stay informed, too much negative news can cause stress. Turn off the TV and walk away from social media for a while to give your mind and emotions a break from the constant barrage of news. If you care for children or elderly parents, you may have to make that decision for them as well.

Breathe and exercise

One of the best things you can do to reduce stress is to increase your physical activity and practice deep, calm breathing techniques. Even as you’re maintaining social distances from others, you can stretch, do yoga, pray, meditate, walk your dog, ride a bike, hike, or engage in other similar activities you enjoy. 

Mind your health

Too much stress takes its toll on your body, but you can counter that by being mindful of your physical health. Eating a healthy diet, curbing your intake of alcohol and tobacco, and getting plenty of rest can all give you a fighting chance against COVID-19 anxiety. And, of course, practice good oral hygiene brushing twice daily and flossing before bed.

A special note about children, stress, and COVID-19

Everyone exhibits stress differently, but in general, adults can identify it and recognize the symptoms. Children, on the other hand, may not be able to communicate their feelings as clearly. Here are some common signs that your child might be experiencing stress or anxiety:

You can help your child and everyone in your household by being a good role model. Stay calm and informed, eat well, sleep well, and maintain routine. Typically, children will follow your lead. Routines are important for children and make them feel safe. 

Don’t speak about the COVID-19 outbreak excessively or with fear and panic in your voice. Be honest with your kids, make sure they understand the facts and assure them that they’re safe. Let them know that by staying in together with you and the family, they're helping to solve the problem. This gives them a sense of control and inclusion.

As in any crisis, calm, rational, informed behavior can help you and those you love to manage stress and maintain physical and mental health. There are bound to people in your sphere of influence who are experiencing frustration, anxiety, worry, anger, fear, and even panic. You can do your part by managing your own stress levels so you can help them cope as well.

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