Most people are feeling anxious about the global crisis that COVID-19 has caused. You certainly are not alone if you are feeling this way since we have never dealt with a pandemic crisis of this level. Uncertainty and change typically aren’t comfortable for most people. When we don’t have a sense of knowing what lies ahead most people will feel highly anxious. The novel coronavirus has uprooted our typical way of life, which has created a state of chronic anxiety for many people.
When we aren’t able to live life the way we are used to it is very stressful. Individuals have had to physically distance from family and friends, which can be isolating. Work settings have changed with some now working from home, others have been furloughed or many have lost their jobs. Parents are finding balancing work at the same time as helping their children adjust with being out of school and finishing out the school year through distance learning challenging.
As our country begins to reduce restrictions, potentially re-open school and are faced with returning to work many individuals will feel their anxiety increase as we re-adjust to another new norm. All of these issues can lead to feeling unsafe, anxious and that things are out of control. One of the important things to remember is that you are not alone in what you are feeling!
Strategies to Cope with Anxiety and Stress Related to COVID-19
It’s important to understand that in learning to cope with anxiety overall, and more specifically with fears about the novel coronavirus, it is important to distinguish between what we can control and areas that are outside of our control.
Here are several skills to work on as you cope with the anxiety you feel:
- Acknowledge, identify and work towards acceptance of your emotions.
When we resist or deny our feelings they can intensify and feel less in control. Identifying and accepting what you are feeling gives way to lessening the strength of the emotion, provides relief and allows individuals to think about how to manage, regulate and cope with those emotions.
- Talk with support systems about what you are going through to help reduce isolation and feeling alone.
It’s validating when we know that other people get where we are coming from emotionally even if the situation doesn’t actually change.
- Utilize mindfulness skills to ground in your senses.
A simple technique is naming 5 things you see, 4 things you can see, 3 things you can physically feel and 2 things you can hear and 1 thing you can smell. Focusing on such sense grounds us in the moment, can produce physical calmness and has the focus redirected to the present rather than caught up in a worry spiral in the mind that typically escalates.
- Follow the recommendations from experts and public health officials with precautions that make you feel safer including hand washing, wearing a mask when around others and limiting physical interactions.
- Practice mindful breathing. There isn’t a magic number of how many breaths to take or the right way to breath. Slowing down the breath, focus on where it is coming from in the body and redirecting back to it as an anchor if distractions arise is helpful. Counting 4 counts in and 4 counts out can be a helpful place to start. Deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system that allows for a calmer mind and body.
- Distract yourself from feeling anxious by getting into a project that has you focus and concentrate on the task you are completing.
- Regulating eating and sleeping is imperative to help with feeling less anxious.
- Connect with others online and/or with social distancing. We need to physically distance, but we don’t have to disconnect from family and friends completely.
- Exercising is a great way to distract, de-stress and build your immune system! Even better if you can exercise outdoors in the sunshine out in nature.
- Accept what you can’t control and focus on what you can control. Accepting that we live with so many unknowns in life and practice acceptance of those feelings that arise non-judgmentally helps our brains to signal from a place of safety and calmness.
- Create routines to adapt to a new normal.
- Practice Gratitude. The Coronovirus has produced so many anxious moments for all of us! Identifying reasons to be grateful that have arisen amidst this pandemic is imperative! Gratitude helps remind us of what matters in life and shifts us out of a fear based mode, so we can recognize the good, positive and joyful moments in the present!
If you, a family member or friend are having a difficult time and needs help to cope with anxiety, the therapists at Family Psychology Associates understand your concerns and are trained to help through confidential therapy services. We are providing online counseling and stress management for individual, family and marital services. Check out our website at www.fampsy.org, our Facebook and Twitter pages. Contact our office to set up an appointment at 727-203-3770 (Trinity Office) or 727-725-8820 (Safety Harbor Office).