Feeling Overwhelmed? Feeling Scared? COVID-19 and Anxiety

Posted in: COVID-19

Feeling Overwhelmed? Feeling scared? COVID-19 and Anxiety

Do conversations about COVID-19 have you overwhelmed? Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and can affect many of us. Developing the right coping skills can help not only you, but the people you care about and work with. Here is some advice that may help:

  1. Stick with the facts: Use trustworthy news sources to stay up-to-date on the latest information and set a limit on which sites you will follow and which channels you will watch. We all want to stay up-to-date, but when you have anxiety, the need to check and read the latest updates can become compulsive, feeding our anxiety.
  2. Be “smart” with your smart devices: News alerts and updates are going out by the dozens. This, coupled with messages from family and friends, can be overwhelming, and this constant stream of messaging can cause unnecessary stress and worry. You can disable updates from your phone to stop alerts, which puts you in control of when and how you receive your information. Have an honest conversation with family and friends about your stresses. Ask them to limit messages around COVID-19 and only discuss factual updates from trustworthy sources.
  3. Don’t get your MD on Google: Put a ban on internet searches for symptoms. The internet is not, and will never be, your friend when it comes to medical diagnoses, especially when you are feeling anxious. The same goes for social media; try to remember, many people only post when they are concerned about something. Misery loves company!
  4. Try not to seek constant reassurance: Seeking reassurance can make you feel calmer for a little bit, but it is usually only temporary. Your brain creates a feedback cycle where you become reliant on reassurance. This only feeds your anxiety. Instead try #5.
  5. Try a “countering” technique: A countering technique involves countering a persistent thought with a rational thought. For example, if your persistent thought is “Everyone I know will die from this virus,” you can counter with “Actually, most people who get COVID-19 are likely to make a full recovery.” As my grandmother said, “Just because you think something, doesn’t make it true.”
  6. Go outside and get fresh air and sunshine – A study from the 1918 Influenza Pandemic found that severely ill flu patients who were treated outdoors recovered better than those treated indoors. Fresh air can kill the virus and other germs and equally—sunlight is germicidal. Get outside as much as you can (in compliance with CDC guidance on being socially distant of course). Take a walk, eat lunch, just breathe the fresh air!
  7. Do some exercise: Exercise gets the adrenaline out of our system which will help control your anxiety. Turn on happy music and dance. Just move!
  8. Breathing Exercises: Breathing exercises can help bring you back to reality. You can search the internet for examples.
  9. Treat yourself: Anything that will make you happy will help. It doesn’t have to cost you money. Cook yourself your favorite meal. Try a hot bath. Listen to your favorite music. Watch a funny movie.
  10. Remember that your anxious feeling isn’t permanent: When you are feeling it, anxiety always seems as though it will never end, but it will. It is hard to remember this but try. Be kind to yourself. This too shall pass.
  11. Seek help: If your anxiety becomes overwhelming, let someone know. Contact your health insurance customer service and ask for a referral to a counselor. If your company has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), reach out to them. Let a good friend or family member know you are struggling. Don’t go it alone.

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