In the last week nearly all of my sessions focused on the anxiety caused by Coronavirus. This virus has turned our lives upside down! We are living a “new normal” with many of us living in some form on social distancing and working (or trying to work) from home while schools and daycares have closed. This rapid change in our every day lives can lead to heightened anxiety. Here are some tips for managing your anxiety in this uncertain and unsettling time:
1) Limit your news. This is a major challenge, but remember that there’s only so much you can do right now, and there’s almost nothing you can do with each new news alert. Instead, I suggested trying to be as present as possible. Whether it means putting down your phone while watching Netflix or doing a puzzle, or closing your laptop while you help your kids with arts and crafts, every activity is an opportunity for a break from the news. I suggest checking the news once or twice a day, but NOT right before bed, when it can easily lead to racing thoughts and sleep disturbance.
2) Stay away from busy grocery stores. Order delivery groceries if you can, or go during off hours. Simply being around crowds, even if everyone is safely staying 6 feet apart, can trigger a cascade of anxiety. On my way to the store last week, my fear was that there would be no food left. It turned out there was plenty of food, but too many people!
3) Do something fun every day! Everyone has an activity they’ve been looking for time to finally do. Social distancing and quarantine are stressful and monotonous, in part because there’s so much time to get through every day. Maybe there is a book that has been sitting on your nightside table for a year? Maybe you want to find the recipe for the world’s best pizza dough? Maybe you and your kids want to learn the dance to ‘seize the day’ from the Broadway show Newsies (available on Disney+)? Order the materials now so you have something to look forward to!
4) Keep up your health. There’s more to being healthy than avoiding the virus. Eat your fruits/veggies and exercise. This will help your mental health, and has the helpful benefit of keep you in fighting shape should you get sick
5) GO OUTSIDE! Unless the CDC or local officials suggest otherwise (which may be the case based on your age/health/location), break up your social distancing with some trips outside. Go for a walk, sit under a tree and read a book, or kick the ball around with your kids – it doesn’t matter — just enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. This will help ease the emotional challenge of being confined.
For those with children in the house: remember that they pick up on your mood. The more you surround yourself with bad news, and the less you take steps to help yourself, the more anxiety your children will internalize. Remember that this is difficult for your kids too, and they forge memories during times of increased stress and anxiety. It is up to the parents/adults to give them reasons to remember this as crazy/fun/silly/messy family time.