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Viral Anxiety

Ila Gartin

After a short hiatus, we decided to return with a piece addressing the elephant in the room – feelings that may be arising because of recent changes to your routine, information overload, or lack of accurate information. The last few weeks have shown us some drastic changes in the US social structure, economy, and healthcare system, which can be anxiety-producing. 

I am one of those people who becomes anxious when I’m overstimulated or bombarded with information, especially when it’s presented without a reasonable explanation. Because I know that about myself, I limit my time watching or reading news, perusing on social media, or even talking about it with others. I’m very careful about spending time with those people who further produce anxiety with unfounded or inaccurate information and with pessimism, as well as discussion with no consideration for how to make a positive difference. 

If you’re the type of person who tends to get caught up in the hype and feel yourself getting anxious about it, know that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Most of us are wired that way and as people and media come at us with fearful stories and bad news with absolutely no advice for how to rationally and calmly take steps to remedy the situation, it is NORMAL for us to feel some anxiety. 

I’d like to address a few different groups of people, although I guarantee you’ll find something helpful in each section. These are just the first recommendations that came to mind for each group. I encourage you to read and share as you see fit, as this is definitely a rapidly changing and difficult time. 

GENERAL SUGGESTIONS

First and foremost, it is IMPERATIVE that we limit our exposure to the media. I don’t mean that we live completely off the grid and stop getting any news at all. I mean turn off the 24-hour news channel, no matter which one you choose. Believe me, you will STILL get the news. You’ll still hear the information you NEED to know. You may get that information a little later than some people, but by the time it reaches you, it should be accurate and delivered with less haste or language that provokes fear.

    Limit your social media time. Unless you’ve done an excellent job of curating your news feed and are seeing positive and productive information there, you NEED to reduce your intake. When you do see something that is inaccurate, report it. Unfollow those people who are posting things that make you feel anxious. You can always follow them again later. 

    Practice healthy habits. This includes regular exercise, choosing healthy foods to give your body energy, drink plenty of water, wash your hands, and MAKE some time for yourself. If you want your body to be able to fight off anything it comes in contact with, these are very important habits to implement and maintain. 

    Talk about how you feel. No matter what your feelings are, humans are social creatures and need some interaction with people who are understanding, good at listening, and rational. Don’t have anybody in your life like that? Feel free to message us here and we’d be happy to chat with you. Ideally, if you have a therapist, talking with her/him is a great way to work through your feelings on this subject. If not, turn to a trusted friend, family member, or, like I said, message someone like us – someone you don’t know who can look at your situation objectively and without judgment. Ideally, you’ll be doing your talking via phone or video chat.

    Focus on what you can control. You have complete control over your own life and how you live it. Yes, there may be some changes being implemented right now that aren’t what you’re used to. Look at these changes as challenges to be overcome or learning opportunities. This includes accepting your current circumstances and choosing to focus on what you can do to create the best situation for you at this time. 

    BE SOCIAL…just not in person. Practice social distancing so we can slow the spread of this virus and relieve the burden on the healthcare system.

    Practice gratitude and looking for joy. Tap into your present moment and choose one thing that brings you joy right now. If you look for sadness, panic, or scary news, you’ll find it. If you look for happiness, joy, or blessings, you’ll find them. Start a gratitude practice and write down 5 things you’re grateful for that happened yesterday. 

HEALTHCARE WORKERS (AND ALL OTHERS WHO ARE CARRYING ON AS NORMAL)

    This is kind of confusing, right? We hear all the recommendations to practice social distancing, don’t meet in groups of 10 or more, stay home, etc. But here we are, going to work like it’s completely normal. Except it isn’t. We almost can’t help but be in the vicinity of 10 people at once, some of whom are ill. We are getting information several times a day, and each time it’s a little different. It’s overwhelming. Here are some suggestions for us:

    Talk to other healthcare workers, with the goal of clarifying need-to-know information. Don’t guess at what will happen next, but do prepare for the plausible possibilities, as directed by your superiors. Maybe put a time limit on how long you’ll discuss the current virus situation and then MOVE ON. Discuss ANYTHING else. 

    Take whatever precautions you can, including washing your hands and social distancing when outside of work. I know, I know, you already wash your hands like crazy, but it had to be said. 

    Take your vitamins. High stress = lower immune function. You know that. Do whatever you can to maximize your immune function at this time, which leads me to…

    Make sure you’re getting enough sleep! We tend to be givers and are constantly giving our time to make sure others are okay. In this situation, you need to make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep to help your body’s immune function at max level. 

    Calm down. Practice deep breathing or meditation – daily – if possible. Don’t look at me like that! I know this isn’t a Western medicine technique, but it WORKS! Calming your body and mind decreases the stress hormones, making your body stronger, your mind sharper, and your heart more grateful. 

THOSE IN QUARANTINE

    I’ve heard the jokes, I know everyone is saying, “I wish I was in quarantine so I didn’t have to work and could just stay home all day for two weeks!” And I know that when you’re MANDATED to stay home, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Some of these may be repeats from above, but it’s worth mentioning here.

    Change your perspective. Change your language (in your speech and your thoughts) from HAVE to GET. No matter what it is, think of it as an opportunity instead of a punishment. You get to focus on those home projects you’ve been delaying. You get to start practicing some self-care. You keep reading about it and wondering when you’ll have time and now, here it is! You get to plan and set goals and meal prep! You get to spend time with your kids – time that you will never get back – you GET to hang with those kiddos! Seriously, if you try your best to fill your days with things you’ve been putting off or thought you’d never have time to do, those two weeks will be over before you know it. 

    Maintain a schedule. Don’t just let yourself go so your days and nights get mixed up. Wake up at a specific time each day. Plan your days so that you include productive time, creativity, self-care, exercise, and a decent bedtime. This is important for your body’s circadian rhythm, but also for your psyche. 

    Stay in contact with friends and family. With phone and video chats, there is no reason we can’t maintain bonds with those we love. Make sure you have a daily chat with someone who isn’t in your household. This is a great opportunity to catch up with old friends or talk to your friends you’d normally be hanging out with.

No matter your situation, if you find yourself struggling during this time, please know that you’re not alone. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member to discuss. If you have a therapist, call to make an appointment (I bet many are doing video or tele-health calls). Leave us a message or send an email (found on the “about” page) if you’re not sure who you can talk to during this time. We’re happy to help.

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