Anxiety & COVID-19
Written by: Angie McDonald, LPC
We are in the middle of a global pandemic and each of us might be feeling a lot of strong emotions. For some, anxiety is a big, normal part of everyday life right now. Anxiety does not always feel good. Knowing and naming what is happening can help us ease some of the strength of the symptoms. Symptoms might include: hypervigilance (on edge), irritability, restlessness, concentration problems, racing thoughts, unwanted thoughts, fatigue, sweating more often, excessive worry, fear, feeling of impending doom, insomnia, nausea, palpitations, and/or trembling.
These are normal responses to the collective traumatic experience we are facing. The fear of the unknown is an extremely difficult place to navigate. You may feel ok one minute and the very next minute your heart is racing and pounding. Your brain is telling your body at this point, you are in danger, you are not safe and an alarm goes off in our body.
With what the world is facing, these are normal responses to our everyday situation. Bigger, more severe, problems may arise, if we are in this constant state of arousal, all day long without being able to come back to a calm, functional place.
How do we do this? How do we get our bodies and minds back to a calm place? The approach might be different for everyone. What works for some, might not work for others.
I found myself feeling extremely anxious today reading updates about COVID 19. These updates are good information and it is important to be informed, but after about 10 minutes of reading I recognized my body was tensing up and my mind was racing with the “what if’s” (breeding ground for anxiety). What if one of my kids, an extended family member or friends actually contract COVID 19? What if I get it? What if my coworkers get it? What if this virus is not contained? What if my job changes or hours are cut? What if the kids don’t go back to school this fall? And my mind is on this continual loop telling my body I am in danger.
At that point, I had to make a conscious choice to ask myself what could I do? What could I control? I could get off the internet (causing anxiety to rise), go get a drink of water, take some very long deep breaths, and then for me in that moment, writing was helpful. You have to find what works for you. We are getting information everyday through social media, the news, the internet, etc. on tips that can help with our anxiety and other mental health concerns and this is a tremendous thing. It also might feel a bit overwhelming to some as we are taking in so much information on a daily basis as our brains try to process it all.
The goal is to find a few things that help when you begin to feel overwhelmed (which again is normal), that help bring you back to your calmer place. I say calmer, because right now, it may be hard to get back to a really calm, relaxed place, because we are in the middle of an anxiety provoking pandemic that is affecting each of our lives.
My challenge to you is to make a list of a few things that help you feel calm again and try doing those when life feels like it is just too much at the moment. My list includes slow, deep breaths, watching Friends or Everybody Loves Raymond, watching Tik Tok videos (have not convinced my kids to do one with me yet), getting outside going for a walk (this needs to happen more), calling or texting a friend; looking at pictures of my children, hugging one of my children, etc. Find a few things that work and keep doing them!
We are all in this together and we are all going to process our experiences in different ways. Lean on others, stay connected to others, and stay well!