Since I have cancelled my sessions until at least April 5th, 2020, I thought I would create a blog entry focusing on living with anxiety during the Covid-19 global crisis.
I know that the past few days have been a whirlwind for all of us. The closure of schools, international border restrictions, and new social distancing measures have understandably created challenges and uncertainty. Unfortunately, many people have responded by stressing, panicking and stock-piling supplies. Many other thoughts are occurring right now, such as fear of loss of income, worrying about how to entertain and educate children, access to food (and toilet paper!), and of course, the fear of getting sick.
So many things are out of our control at this point, so this blog post is about how to ease your anxiety and best support yourself.
Of course, it’s normal to feel anxiety right now, and while we need to allow ourselves the space to feel these feelings, we also need to give ourselves the space to let them go. Some anxiety is productive. It’s what motivates us to wash our hands often and distance ourselves from others when there’s an important reason to do so. If we weren’t reasonably worried, none of us would be taking these measures, and the virus would spread even more. But unproductive anxiety ( such as unchecked rumination) can make our mind spin in all kinds of frightening directions. Instead of helping us to stay grounded in the present, our anxiety spins worse case scenario stories about the future.
Tips for Reducing Pandemic Anxiety
1. Ground yourself in science. Resist viewing or reading sensational news or social media, where facts are often blurred or exaggerated. Instead, reach out to your local health or state department of health for up-to-date information on COVID-19. Science-based facts will help ground you in a reality where truth, hope, and interventions exist.
2. Isolate but stay connected to others. Protect yourself with social distance and homebound activities. But make sure to keep your attachments to friends, family, and loved ones by calling, texting, using FaceTime or Skype. You can still go for walk with friends, just keep at least 6 feet apart!
3. Think locally, not globally. Focus on what is happening in your local community and what you can do to keep yourself and neighbours healthy and safe. A sense of community is vital for moving through traumatic situations and builds resiliency in children and adults.
4. Practice self-care and make sure others do too. Be mindful about eating well, keeping a healthy sleep cycle, exercising, and other soothing self-care behaviors. Be kind to yourself if you are not being as efficient at work. Remind yourself that this is an unusual time, and therefore it can be difficult to dive in and focus on work, when there is so much going on. It’s important to be charitable to yourself. This is an anxious and stressful time for everyone, and it’s okay if you feel more anxious than usual. It’s more than okay to take time for yourself to manage your mental health. You are doing the best you can in a time when simply turning on the news can feel overwhelming.
5. Fight helplessness by finding purpose. The uncertainty that COVID-19 brings can leave many of us feeling unspeakably helpless. Finding purpose can alleviate restlessness and anxiety. Choose things you can control, be it shifting negative thoughts into positive ones, deciding what to cook for lunch, reading a good book, picking what movie you and the kids will watch, or other activities you have power over.
6. Breathe. Allow yourself to slow down, disconnect from the news and take a few deep breaths. Inhale counting to 3, exhale counting to 3. Repeat! Try to do this everyday.
7. Explore self-management strategies like mindfulness, yoga, meditation, art, or exercise to manage anxious thoughts. You can find self-management strategies for anxiety from Anxiety Canada at www.anxietycanada.com. You can also take the Bounce Back Online, a self-directed course from the Canadian Mental Health Association to help people manage low mood, stress, and anxiety. The online version is available for free, no referral needed. Visit online.bouncebackonline.ca.
I am offering Zoom sessions now, so feel free to contact me if you would like to book a session (for existing clients only).