Therapist Q&A: How do I cope with Coronavirus / COVID-19 anxiety?

Anxious Coronavirus COVID-19 Em Capito, LCSWFeeling anxious about the COVID-19 pandemic? You’re in good company.

There’s a lot to be worried about that is outside of our control right now.

Anxiety is one of those sticky challenges that triggers overthinking and overdoing to try to find relief, and in the end only creates a self-fulfilling prophesy of MORE anxiety.

Because when we DO something to try to FIX fears outside of our control, we create an EXPECTATION. An unrealistic one since (darnit!) the worry is truly NOT within our control.

Aspects of COVID-19 outside of our control:

  • The potential health impact on friends and loved ones
  • The economic impact on ourselves, our loved ones and our communities
  • The politics, restrictions and legal changes
  • The future (yikes…that’s a big question mark)

What we can actually control to some degree:

  • Our breath
  • Our choices in response to the need for social distancing, hand washing and self-quarantining
  • Our outreach to loved ones to connect virtually
  • Our daily routines, such as our wake-up ritual, diet, exercise, family meals, work time, quality activities, and bedtime
  • Our self-care awareness and investment toward coping physically and emotionally with heightened stress and risk of illness
  • Our exposure to negative or scary information – and how we counterbalance need-to-know updates with feeling connected and purposeful within our community

When anxiety ramps up, we tend to want to FIX IT (consuming loads of negative information online, scanning for symptoms, disinfecting every 20 minutes, etc) or ESCAPE (television, movies, food, denial, etc).

Real, sustainable relief comes from:

  • Intentional breath – Inhale hope, exhale fear
  • Mindfully observing anxious thoughts, rather than becoming them
  • Accepting what you do not have control over – set that weight down
  • Creating and sticking to rituals that focus you on what you do have control over (meditation, work, quality time, etc)
  • Taking responsibility for what you can control today – you, your attitude, your choices
  • Meaningful effort toward something you care about – your job, a hobby, taking care of loved ones, service to others
  • Connecting with others in meaningful, positive ways
  • Laughing and creating pockets of joy together
  • Moving your body
  • Getting fresh air and sunshine – even a solo walk around your block provides a respite from the ball of worry

If you’re struggling with anxiety – you are not alone, and you already have the inherent strength and belonging to draw from to find real relief.

Here is an excellent resource with brief meditations and a lovely Q&A.

And if the spiral has already gained a bit too much momentum, a session with a good friend, coach or therapist can do a world of good in coming back to your authentic, brave self.

We’re in this coronavirus chaos – together – for the long haul it seems.

Don’t wait for factors outside of your control to change in order to live your life. Reach out and take baby steps now.

You might be surprised at how strong you become in exercising these anti-worry muscles in the midst of immense uncertainty, and the dramatic shift in trajectory that might create for the rest of your life.

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