During this novel coronavirus pandemic, lots of emotions are running high. Anxiety is one that fits the situation but also feels overwhelming when it gets intense or out of hand. If you need more ideas for how to cope or for how to build new coping skills during this time, here are some things to try:
6) CHANGE YOUR BODY CHEMISTRY
When we experience anxiety (and other emotions) our heart rates, blood pressures, and breathing rates increase. If we are preparing to fight or flee a physical threat, this is a helpful response. But if you are anxious or panicking chronically and about things out of your control (like the coronavirus), it is more helpful to work on strategies to calm your body. We can do this through activities that change our body chemistry. Getting your heart rate up with physical movement (think jumping jacks or running in place) increases serotonin and all kinds of other helpful brain chemicals and decreases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.
We humans also have a reflex called the mammalian dive reflex. Doctors even take advantage of this to help with some types of tachycardia. In short, dunking your face in ice water (or putting a bag of frozen peas on your face) and holding it there for several seconds will lower your heart rate and slow your breathing rate. When you are panicking or anxiously ruminating this tip can help immensely.
Being stuck at home while social distancing can really hinder your normal ways of taking care of yourself. If you have kids or other people now at home with you, you may not be able to get your usual time and space alone. Other self-care places like gyms and spas are closed. These changes call for creativity in self-care. Try to maintain some routine and normalcy. Keep getting your morning shower (maybe on most days ;), and get dressed. Meet with your bookclub at the same time, just via Zoom now. Play the games you’d usually play in person with your friends, but now online. Do your own nails. Find a workout online. Our schedules, routines, and places of solace have been greatly disrupted in a time when we need them the most, so don’t give up on self-care, get creative.
8) BE MINDFUL OF YOUR EXPOSURE
For the most part social distancing is about managing our physical exposure to the coronavirus, but to minimize your anxiety it’s important to also be mindful of your mental and emotional exposure to coronavirus – the news, gossip, thoughts, etc. Try to schedule just 1 or 2 times a day to check the news instead of constantly scrolling or listening to it throughout the day. Also choose your news sources wisely. I love to watch (or listen to) one of the late-night comedy shows. It gives me the headline news, but with a dose of humor to help mitigate my anxiety about the content. You can’t control the news or that people everywhere are talking about coronavirus, but you can limit the types and amount of your exposure to it.
Sheltering in place at home can make it hard to find the social support you need, but it doesn’t eliminate your options. Therapists (like us!) are moving to video sessions online to be accessible during this crisis. Support and therapy groups are popping up too. You could also start a text thread or Marco Polo group with your friends to stay in touch. Get vulnerable with safe friends and family by letting them know how you’re doing, what you need, and how they can help. If you need support (and we all likely do during this pandemic) get creative and ask for what you need.
10) ACCEPT REALITY
At the end of the day, the more we fight or deny the reality of the situation we are in, the more we will suffer emotionally. Accepting reality looks like continually making the conscious choice to recognize the facts of your current situation, and acknowledging that it is what it is. This is not to be confused with approval of or liking the situation, nor is it giving up. Accepting facts about your reality doesn’t mean you like what’s going on. Accepting the reality of coronavirus may mean taking a deep breath and acknowledging you can’t just run out to the store, instead of feeling angry about it. It’s accepting you can’t see your friends, and letting yourself feel sad about it before coming up with a creative alternative. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but it can help you feel more peaceful and less anxious or angry in the present.
In our current situation with the pandemic, a lot of our fear and anxiety comes from “future tripping” or ruminating about possible outcomes or the unknowns in the future. Working on staying mindfully in the present moment can help reduce anxiety. One way to do this is to focus on just one thing in the moment. While multitasking may feel more productive in the moment, it can actually lead to more anxiety. Try saying to yourself, “right now I’m just washing this dish,” or “just this email,” or “just this conversation.” There is freedom in only having to do one thing at a time.
If you’ve tried these coping skills and are still feeling unmanageable anxiety and/or having panic attacks, it may be time to reach out for help from a therapist.
If you or someone you love is in need of mental health treatment, Solutions in Living can help. Specializing in Addiction Services in Northern Kentucky, Solutions in Living, located in Burlington, KY, provides the support you need to gain and maintain wellness.
Addiction Services Northern Kentucky