The COVID-19 outbreak and resulting economic downturn have negatively affected many people’s mental health. If you are feeling increased levels of anxiety and stress, know that you are not alone.
Between stay-at-home orders, school shutdowns, business closures, and rising unemployment levels, we are all dealing with extreme amounts of uncertainty. If you’re already living with an anxiety disorder, your symptoms can be much harder to manage.
Here at Wellington Counseling Group, we want to equip you with the knowledge and tools to better manage anxiety during this difficult and unsettling time. Here are some top tips.
Keep things in perspective and remind yourself that your fears are legitimate
Keep in mind that these are unprecedented times; very few people living today have seen such an upheaval in society. Anxiety can stem from fears of getting COVID-19 and becoming sick, or related fears of being asymptomatic and unwittingly passing it on to a vulnerable person who could die as a result. As Chicago and Illinois slowly begin to reopen, some worry about going back to work and getting a coworker sick, or bringing the illness home to their family as silent carriers. For others, the fear of whether or not they’ll still be valued in this re-shaped world and economy is beginning to creep in.
- Find someone who will listen to you without invalidating your fears, such as a therapist or a friend or family member who “gets” you.
- Create a clear set of rules for your family about what is and is not safe (at home and outside the home). You can adjust these, together, as things evolve outside.
- Be kind to your mind and remind yourself that there was no way to prepare for such circumstances.
- Remind yourself the rate of reopening is guided by science to ensure maximum safety.
Stay informed, but take a break from watching, reading, or listening to the news
Staying informed is important so that you can follow safety precautions and do your part in preventing the spread of coronavirus. However, there’s a lot of misinformation and constantly checking the news can actually do more harm than good.
- Follow trustworthy news sources like the CDC, WHO, and local public health experts.
- Limit how often you check the news. Checking too often can further fuel anxiety and fear. If you start feeling overwhelmed, consider unplugging for awhile.
- Schedule time. If you find yourself struggling to limit your consumption, schedule 30 minutes a day to check the news and social media.
Focus on what you can control
Right now, a lot of things are out of our control. That’s a difficult reality to accept and it can quickly become overwhelming. When you notice anxious thoughts and feelings creeping in, focus on the things that are within your control.
- Frequent hand-washing for at least 20 seconds
- Following social-distancing guidelines and staying at least 6 feet apart
- Avoid any non-essential trips such as shopping, errands, and travel
- Wear protective gear such as face masks and gloves
Take care of your body
Now more than ever, it’s important to take care of our bodies. Prioritizing self-care and physical health can help ease anxious thoughts.
- Get adequate sleep. Try to get to bed and wake up at the same time and shoot for at least 7-8 hours per night for adults; more for younger people.
- Eat nourishing foods. Aim for incorporating a source of carbs, protein, and healthy fat in every meal. Try to get as many servings of fruits and vegetables as you can and avoid processed, fried, and sugary foods.
- Stay active. Movement is medicine. Exercise helps relieve stress, manage mood, and boost serotonin levels. Even ten minutes of light exercise can help. Recommendations for 30 minutes of cardiovascular exertion, within limits, have been made by medical professionals.
Spend time outside
Spending time outside quite literally gives you a breath of fresh air. Sunshine and a change of scenery are good for both the body and soul.
- Go for a walk and think of three things you’re thankful for.
- Have a picnic if you have access to parks or grassy areas.
- Get out in nature and unplug from the everyday stressors in your life.
- If you have a therapist, ask about how to have a session outside when the time feels right to do so.
Practice stress management strategies
Stress management strategies can help you feel grounded when it all starts to feel like too much.
- Try deep, diaphragmatic breathing. Lie on your back and place a hand on your chest and the other on your belly, between your upper belly and rib cage. Breathe in for a count of three seconds. The hand on your stomach should rise as your diaphragm fills with air. Release for a count of six and repeat ten times.
- Practice meditation and mindfulness. Meditation and mindfulness can increase calm and overall emotional well-being. Download an app or follow a guided meditation on a streaming service if you’re new to meditating.
- Do a yoga flow. Yoga can release muscle tension, decrease stress, and promote positive thoughts. You can access flows on exercise apps or streaming services.
Stay connected with family and friends
It’s easy to feel isolated and alone during this time. And that can further exacerbate anxiety and stress. Humans are social beings and it’s important to stay safely connected however we can.
- Schedule time to talk to family and friends. It’s easy to retreat when feelings of anxiety start to mount. To ensure you stay connected, schedule regular phone calls and/or FaceTimes with loved ones.
- Video chat when you can. Face-to-face communication is like a vitamin for your mind. Texting can be convenient, but it doesn’t replace the benefits of video communication with all of the communication that occurs using the expressive human face.
- Follow along on social media. Social media can help remind us that we are not alone. These are trying times for everyone and a sense of community can help ease stress.
Seek professional help if you’re struggling to manage anxiety during COVID-19
If anxiety is affecting your quality of life, reach out to us at Wellington Counseling Group. Our team is dedicated to helping those struggling during this difficult time. Contact us today to learn more about telehealth or in-person therapy.
In the news: Dr. David Rakofsky
Dr. David Rakofsky, president and founder of Chicagoland’s Wellington Counseling Group, was recently interviewed by WGN9. To hear first-hand how he recommends dealing with the threat of COVID-19 and the rise of anxiety, watch his interview now.