You bet it is. Most of the folks I’ve talked to this week are feeling it. The new corona virus isn’t just threatening our health, routines, and retirement accounts, it’s impacting our anxiety too. How could we not feel anxious in a global pandemic?
As you brace for contact with this invisible and unpredictable virus, here are a few reminders to keep anxiety working for, rather than, against you.
Remember, anxiety is normal, and can be a powerful catalyst for problem solving, and mobilizing change. There is nothing wrong with you if you are feeling anxious about Covid- 19 – we all should be. The trick is to let anxiety do its job, and use it to take control of what you can and need to in your life. This is what has us preparing, planning, and hand-washing.
Stay informed, but not too much. Covid-19 coverage is nonstop, and consuming too much can be anxiety-producing. Pick reputable information sources and limit exposure if you notice yourself feeling worse.
Maintain self care basics of sleep, exercise and fitness. Keeping up your sleep (7.5 hours minimum) and fitness (at least 15 minutes of aerobic exercise) will help your brain best manage the uptick in stress in anxiety, whereas alcohol and caffeine will make this harder. Eating plenty of nutrient dense food (fruits, vegetables, and protein) will also help boost your body’s natural immune system, as well as your mind.
Maintain contact with friends and loved ones even if it’s at a distance. Get outside with friends at a distance, and use technology to stay connected. Talking about your feelings and listening to others’ is a powerful way of soothing anxiety, and reminding us we are not alone.
- Limit secondary anxiety – anxiety about your anxiety is the kind of anxiety that can tip you into symptomatic anxiety and irrational fears. Try not to let yourself get freaked out that you are distracted and even frightened. Instead channel those feelings into doing the things you need to do to prepare and keep yourself healthy.
If anxiety gets overwhelming, use a grounding technique like 5-4-3-2-1 related to your 5 senses. 5 things you see in front of you right now, 4 things you can feel right now (desk top, the chair, etc), 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. Or take some deep belly breaths to remind your nervous system you’re ok.
Expect fatigue and to rest. Anxiety and stress can be cognitively draining, and you may find yourself feeling extra tired lately. Downtime and rest will allow your body and mind to recover, so you can be at your best.
Change never happens without some amount of anxiety. Remember we are all in this together doing our best. Be gentle with yourself and the people around you as you pivot into new routines, and absorb change, and aim your expectations at good enough, rather than perfect. When you forget to hand-wash, run out of something you need, and touch your face, invite grace, forgiveness and even humor where you can.
To be sure, the anxiety of this collective moment is fueling the solutions and growth we need to protect ourselves and our communities. There are loads of good, smart, and caring people using their anxiety to solve the myriad problems we are facing, and there will be solutions.
As Fred Rogers famously would advise in a crisis, “look for the helpers….that’s where you’ll find hope”
Wishing you wellness and health,