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Coping With Anxiety During the Coronavirus Pandemic

From Lacie Anthony, Licensed Professional Counselor at Crossing Rivers Health Behavioral Health

If you or your family members are feeling nervous or anxious about the coronavirus pandemic, here is some advice that may give all of you some comfort.

1) Avoid or limit information coming in

We all want to keep up to date, but the need to check and read the latest updates can become compulsive, feeding anxiety. Try having a news detox, or allocating yourself a time limit for reading or watching the news. Get your news from sources such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). If you’re really worried about missing something crucial, you can always tell friends and family to contact you in the event of an emergency situation in order to keep you informed.

2) Focus on what you can do

While there is a lot of uncertainty at this point, we do know that there are things that we can do like washing our hands, limiting contact with others, and avoiding travel if possible. We can also look out for others by calling neighbors and friends and checking in with them. While we do want people to avoid large groups, we are not alone in this so reach out via technology to maintain these healthy relationships.

3) Introduce an absolute ban on Googling symptoms

Dr. Google is not, and never will be, your friend. Nor will message-boards and forums. Try to remember that people visit these places when they have reason to be concerned. Once you start understanding it’s a skewed lens, you’ll be better able to put things in perspective.

4) Try a countering technique

This is a cognitive behavioral therapy exercise which involves giving a persistent thought the courtroom treatment, by confronting it with a rational counter-statement. For example, if your persistent thought is something like, “Everyone I love will die from this virus,” you can counter it with factual statements such as, “Actually, most people who get COVID-19 are likely to make a full recovery, and that’s assuming mom, dad, and my little sister will even catch it at all.” As my mother always says: “Just because you think something, doesn’t make it true.”

5) Do some exercise

Even if it’s just jumping jacks, pushups, sit-ups or walking in place, exercise will help get the adrenaline out of your system and channel the panic elsewhere.

6) Breathing and grounding exercises

Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness and mediation, yoga, and grounding exercises utilizing our five senses can help bring reduce your anxiety and help you stay more present in the moment.

7) Stick to your routine or develop a new one

Continue to do your daily chores, self-care, exercise, eat healthy and relax. If you can go to work, do so. If you are working from home, give yourself breaks throughout the day to help you stay on task better. If you are not working and the kids are home, set up a schedule with them that includes homework as needed, breaks, exercise, and fun.

8) Allocate yourself a daily ‘worry period’

Give yourself half an hour to worry about this to your heart’s content, and then you have to go and do something else.

9) Treat yourself

Anything that will give you a little boost can help. It doesn’t need to involve spending money: you can also cook something nice, have a hot bath, or listen to a song you love.

10) Remember that your anxious state isn’t permanent

When you are in it, anxiety always feels as though it will never end, but it will. It’s hard to remember this, but do try. While we will all experience anxiety during this period, the more we can be aware of this and utilize these effective coping skills, the healthier we will be. Remember, be kind to yourself.