I have pretty bad anxiety surrounding sickness and germs without adding any COVID-19 anxiety in the mix. If you are a close friend of mine you know not to invite me over if you have a cough, don’t tell me if you threw up over the weekend unless you want to see me get dizzy and you know I carry a literal hip flask of hand sanitizer everywhere I go. Not obsessing about wellness on a daily basis is a job for me so you can imagine how hard the recent flood of Coronavirus stuff has hit hard. I experienced some pretty bad panic attacks over the past few weeks and have had to actively find ways to protect myself mentally and physically during these strange times. I am by no means in a situation where I am actively exposed or wouldn’t have access to health care treatment if I needed it. I also already work remotely so I am in no danger of losing my job which makes me so grateful. While I am more secure than many (and I want to be fully transparent about that) – anxiety doesn’t see the logic in life at times. It is easy to become overtaken by fear or paralyzed by scary thoughts no matter how “safe” you actually are. I am not a doctor or government official but I do have personal experience coping with anxiety, social journalism and being honest on the internet. I hope this post can offer comfort or some relief to even one person. Here are things that have worked for me to cope with COVID-19 anxiety:
Stop Scrolling – for me seeing the mention of virus stuff even in a joking way is triggering and makes me start to worry. I have to update social media for my job so unless it is work posts I have stopped mindlessly scrolling on Facebook, TikTok and only allow myself 15 minutes a day on Instagram (my fave platform). If I am creating content I log-on, publish the content and get off. It may sound strange but it has really been helpful during these strange times. Also – don’t forget to turn off notifications for these platforms too.
Only check-in with the news once a day – I get constant updates on COVID-19 from reliable sources as a part of my job so I actually don’t read/listen/watch the news at all. At first, I did and it would always lead me down a rabbit hole of Googling “how long does the virus live on clothing” or some strange thing and then I would get into a fear/COVID-19 anxiety spiral. When you do consume news media only get your information from a reliable source like the CDC or your health care website.
Be prepared but don’t overthink it/ stress about being prepared enough – I am a prepper. One way for me to lower anxiety is by feeling like I have tools to solve “problems” that I worry about. That is one reason why whenever I travel, I bring a ziplock bag full of over-the-counter pills for any ailment. This visual safeguard allows me to relax a bit by saying to myself “if I feel sick I can do something to feel better” which gives me enough peace of mind to actually get on a plane and go new places. Do you have enough food in your house for three weeks? Do you have enough paper products for a month? Do you have some sanitization products? Do you have access to some things to help pass the time? If the answer is yes. STOP WORRYING ABOUT THESE THINGS. If the answer is no, get on instacart and order some food or try Amazon for other things, ask friends/family to share with a contactless drop-off and then once you have the minimum you need. STOP WORRYING ABOUT THESE THINGS.
Set some FaceTime dates with key people you trust/love – It doesn’t have to be a big thing, just put aside 30 minutes a day or a few times a week to Facetime your parents, bestie, workmate – whomever. You can also get Marco Polo to leave people videos throughout the day. Talk about your COVID-19 anxiety feelings, or a new show you are watching or some new favorite bands you found online. Anything goes.
See if you can get a therapy session online – My health care provider has Care On Demand which allows me to book phone and video calls with a therapist or psychiatrist for free. See if your insurance covers anything similar and get a weekly apt in the books. Talking out your fears and focusing on coping strategies with a professional can only be a good thing. If your health care situation doesn’t have these offerings you can still use these services but will have to pay a fee. You can also try Talkspace. I’ve heard good things about it.
Make a daily schedule and stick to it (more on that in an upcoming post) – I’ve been trying to segment up my days with a regular routine so that things feel “normal”. I am planning on writing another post all about what you should include on your social distancing schedule but in the meantime, do your best to create some structure while you are at home.
Take this time to pursue some passions/distract yourself – bake a new recipe, start a mini-series, pull your paints out and get crafting, read a new kindle purchase, make a scrapbook, Google fun facts about your favorite movies. I’ll have another post on more things to do coming soon!
If you need to cry or let out feelings, do it – Everyone is getting hit hard with a lot of fear, changes and hard to comprehend information. It is totally normal to be really emotional or completely void of feelings as a coping mechanism for COVID-19 anxiety at this time. Do not regulate your emotions as they come up. Acknowledge them, feel them, maybe record them in a journal or tell your partner/a friend and then close your eyes, lay down if you can and repeat a mantra like “I am safe, I am strong” to calm yourself down. Hiding your emotions will not help and have actually led me to have a few bad panic attacks. You are not alone and we will get through this together.