When the CDC has a page about managing anxiety and stress during the COVID-19 pandemic, you know there’s a serious problem. The uncertainty of the situation is enough to put anyone in a tailspin, but when you add financial issues, health problems and social distancing, the stress can be overwhelming.
Fear, anxiety and panic are contagions just as dangerous and damaging as the COVID-19 virus. When you see other people panic-buying, it increases your stress level. When you act on it by shopping and stockpiling groceries, it doesn’t absolve your stress. It simply makes you even more stressed.
Anxiety is hard enough to deal with during normal times. During times of crisis, we have to be even more aware of our response to stress. It’s not that you can take away the stress. It’s about how you cope with stress. Unhealthy coping mechanisms include drinking too much, smoking, overworking and poor sleep habits.
How can you deal with anxiety during this time?
I’ve dealt with anxiety for years. When it’s gotten real bad, I’ve taken medication to help me find balance, but currently, I’m relying on what I’ve learned in therapy. When I start to spiral, I try to find ways that help me shut down my unhealthy responses.
- I take it one moment at a time. Sometimes, that means only thinking about one hour or even the next 10 minutes. I try to remember that I can only control so much. What do I need to do to get through the day?
- I am sticking to my schedule. I get up and make my bed. At the end of the day, I try to put work away. I keep lunch easy, just as if I were going to my co-working office. I clean up the kitchen before I go to bed. A routine is comforting for me and reduces my anxiety.
- I’ve muted people on FB who are panicking. I’m also limiting my time on social media and the news. I believe nothing unless it is verified against a reliable source.
- I work crosswords, but any activity that takes your mind off what’s going on in the world works.
- I’ve made sure to connect with others. With some people, I’ve talked about my concerns. With others, I’ve tried to be lighthearted and talk about other things. No matter what, I’ve tried to make sure that I only share accurate information.
- Try to find ways to get out of your four walls without violating any recommendations. Go for a drive. Sit outside on your patio. Play with your dog in the backyard.
We don’t know how long this situation will last. You’re going to have to deal with some stressful problems. Finding your calm in the midst of the storm will help you move forward instead of feeling paralyzed with fear.
If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others call:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or
- Text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517)