How do we manage COVID anxiety after 2 WHOLE years of dealing with this?
The fact that COVID-19 (which originated in 2019; hence covid NINETEEN) is still alive and well in January 2022 is disheartening. Naturally, this pandemic has caused a lot of anxiety in people, even those who have not previously dealt with anxiety in the past! If you already have an anxiety disorder, it may be harder to shake off. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Obviously, the whole world is dealing with the ups and downs of COVID. Conflicting mandates, constantly changing rules, and not knowing what is going to happen from day to day can be triggering. Although a lot of things feel like they are out of our control during this time, what are the things that we can focus on? Here are some tips!
1. Focus on things you can control
One of the reasons that COVID feels so overwhelming and anxiety provoking is because it is NOT within our control. Most of the time when we do experience the feeling of anxiety it is during those moments something is not in our control and we question the "What If's" that could possibly happen. So the first tip is FOCUS ON YOUR CONTROL. We have control over a lot of things within our own lives, and when directly related to COVID, you can take the proper precautions.
Get vaccinated (if you want to)
Mask up when necessary
Wash hands for 20 seconds
Be okay with saying "no" if you feel unsafe to go somewhere
avoid unnecessary travel or outings
boost your immunity through healthy eating and exercise (this can combat COVID)
Exercise: Make a list of things you can control versus things you can not control. Circle one thing you can control right now and do it!
2. Do not obsessively check the news or reported numbers
It may be tempting to check numbers daily, especially during a surge. However; numbers can be greatly inaccurate sometimes and the numbers may not be doing you any emotional favors. Stay informed so that you know what is going on, but don't obsessively check on data that will most likely not help you (or your anxiety).
Along with the news, social media can often be a big trigger. If your tik Tok for you page is full of depressing, controversial topics, maybe it's time to switch it up! Search some videos that will make you happy or make you laugh utilizing the search bar and limiting it to hashtags that will produce such videos (#comedy #funny).
3. Surround yourself with support
One thing I think that most of us have learned during the pandemic, is that we can stay connected with others even when we aren't physically together! Surrounding yourself with support can look like calling a friend 20 minutes a day for a check in, joining an online support group, or video chatting with family members who you enjoy talking to. If you are experiencing anxiety, talking about it with one of your supports can be very therapeutic. It helps to organize your thoughts and express them in a way that is beneficial to you. Your support will most likely be there for you and validate that you are not alone!
There are many activities to do with supports that are safe as well (if you feel you still want to social distance): picnics at the park, hikes/walks together, reading on the beach, outdoor paint parties, etc!
If you feel alone, seeking therapy is a good place to talk about it, and learn how to build your support. You can utilize your therapist as a support system as well!
4. Take care of your physical needs
During this pandemic, it has been difficult to keep up on physical needs, especially those who started to work from home and stayed working at home! For me, personally, I started working at home March 2020 and never looked back! It took some adjustments to make sure I set appropriate boundaries for work and adjusting to keeping up with taking care of myself. My work place and home life completely collided and it was strange! Something I have found that works well is taking walks at the end of my work day to separate my work day from the rest of my day. It gives me time to reflect, transition into the rest of my day and to get a little exercise all in one (and a little Vitamin D doesn't hurt!).
In order to make sure your physical needs are being met:
Drink lots of water
get up every hour at least if sitting for long periods of time
Take "sun breaks" (go out in the sun 3 times a day during work for 5-10 minutes at a time)
Eat regularly and well (add veggies to anything and everything)
meditate daily (10-20 minutes)
5. Engage in self care activities
Regardless of a pandemic going on, self care is SUPER important for our overall well-being. During the pandemic, a lot of people struggled with self care because their self care activities were things they could no longer do (gym, outings, concerts, Disney days)! However; self care does not have to be anything that cost money or that takes a lot of time! Self care should be done daily and could be as little as 10 minutes a day! Here are some ideas, pick some and make a plan for yourself to engage in them daily. My advice is to switch it up and have a list of a few that you really enjoy!
reading or audio books (reading sometimes feels daunting but I always tell my clients if you read 10 pages a day you'll have one book done in a month, thats 12 books a year!
going for a walk
taking a bath
talking to a friend/hanging out with a friend
showering (a simple 10 minute shower or one of those 1 hour long face mask, hair mask showers)
unplug from social media for a day
watch a funny show or video
listen to your favorite music
This list can go on forever, I encourage you to make your own list as a tool for your anxiety! Here are more ideas below:
Although there are no clear answers into when this pandemic is going to end, you can learn to adjust and manage your anxiety better. Take care of yourself, be kind to yourself and practice gratitude during these hard times! We will get through this together!
Comment any thoughts you have, and leave some ideas for self care that you have found helpful during these hard times! If you haven't found any, comment which ones you are willing to try that are listed above.