COVID-19 anxiety has upended our lives in such a short space of time. As humans, we like to feel that we have control over our lives and that we can see the future with some certainty. So how do we address this huge shift?
As the news of the COVID-19 virus gets more dire by the day we need to, first of all, acknowledge our feelings of anxiety and fear. We are in uncharted territory.
However, we can recognize that anxiety is a coping mechanism allowing us to be aware and make suitable preparations. A head in the sand approach will potentially put ourselves, family and friends in danger. Living in Florida it was very distressing to see the spring break resellers acting in crowds on the beaches as if invincible.
We need to be informed but spending a great deal of time watching the news can lead to a permanent level of stress that can lower our immune system. Once we acknowledge our Covid-19 anxiety and feelings we can make some choices to find activities that can calm us.
Then let us find some strategies to help.
We can read a great deal of useful information online that suggest strategies to occupy our time if we are sequestered at home.
The simplest way to calm anxiety is to focus on our breath.
When anxious our breathing becomes shallow. Take some deep breaths where your exhale is longer than your exhale. So, breathe in to a count of four, hold for two and then exhale to a count of six.
Another coping technique that can calm anxiety – the 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique for anxiety.
This five-step exercise can be very helpful during periods of anxiety or panic by helping to ground you in the present when your mind is ruminating and catastrophizing. Before starting this exercise, pay attention to your breathing. Once you find your breath, go through the following steps to help ground yourself:
Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. It could be a pet, a book, anything in your surroundings.
Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. It could be your hair, a pillow, or the ground under your feet.
Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This could be any external sound, a bird chirping, traffic or sounds in your house
Acknowledge TWO things you can smell. Perhaps coffee in your kitchen, your shower gel.
Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like— coffee, or the sandwich from lunch?
You can use apps such as Calm and Headspace to help you be more grounded. The Tapping Solution app has a number of free meditations designed to reduce stress. The website everydayhealth.com has ten suggestions for using the internet for stress relief and learning opportunities. For example, they give links to zoos and museums where you can tour or watch live cams, resources for exercising at home.
In times of uncertainty we desire very naturally to fix things.
Although we are somewhat powerless right now, we can make choices that can help ourselves and others. We are social creatures so isolation is very difficult, For people dealing with depression or substance abuse, being alone can cause great damage. For seniors living alone, many day to day activities that are enjoyed with other people can no longer take place.
Social Media and Connecting Online
There is a paradox in society at this time even before the coronavirus that we are connected as never before through social media yet there is an epidemic of loneliness.
Fortunately, we have devices that help us be in contact. Instead of texting make a phone call, check on neighbors to see if you can pick up some groceries or a prescription.
For families with children who need to look after them and work from home themselves the task is daunting. However, more and more creative suggestions can be found in online groups. In this time, parents and children can get to know more about the lives of each other. Having a schedule and making time for fun activities can help.
If you are in a troubled relationship this could be the time to make some repairs. Perhaps buy John Gottman’s newest book “Eight Dates” and begin to reconnect with your partner. Check out his website at www.gottman.com.
Deepak Chopra tells us that “The best use of imagination is creativity. The worst use of imagination is anxiety.”
As our regular activities are stripped away, we can be creative in finding some new ones. Perhaps spend time on a hobby that you have not had any time for recently, read a book that has sat unread for a time or watch some You Tube videos or Ted talks and of course there is always Netflix! Give yourself permission without feeling guilty about some binge watching.
Take care of your physical health.
Now could be the time to cook some new recipes. Get some fresh, go for a walk keeping social distancing in mind. Play with your pets who are great stress relievers.
There is, of course, a huge and yet unknown financial fallout.
For many workers in service industries, there will be no paycheck. With the stock market plunge, 401K plans have taken a hit leaving many wondering about retirement or other large plans.
Hopefully, the government will help individuals who have lost jobs rather than major corporations.
Eating out is very popular with many of us and now restaurant workers are some of the hardest hit.
We can do our part to help restaurant workers in small businesses by giving generous tips when we use pick up service or buy gift certificates that owners can use to pay employees.
I would be happy to hear and share your suggestions for coping with Covid-19 anxiety.
My email is [email protected].
Lastly, please take good care of yourself and your loved ones. Stay safe and healthy. Be patient and kind. There is no better time to strengthen our bonds, to stand together, to help each other through this crisis, showing compassion to ourselves or others.