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Dealing with Covid-19 Anxiety

If you are experiencing a roller coaster of emotions and anxiety during the Covid-19 pandemic, you’re not alone. It’s been a hard couple of months. To help get you through the crisis, here is some advice to assist you in prioritizing your well-being and enduring the isolation.

You’ve been bombarded by news articles; the headlines are all the same and just. keep. coming. The quarantine and mask memes are endless and may offer temporary distraction and comedic relief; maybe you have a “Work from Home day #___” tracker as well. We’ve all had to adjust to this new normal, and we’re willing to bet you’ve had a wide range of emotions and responses over the past 17+ weeks (or more), including additional work stress.

Even though many of the restrictions are easing, being isolated from friends, family and colleagues is really hard. No, it’s not just you. It is completely valid to struggle with this. Below are some helpful reminders of ways to take care of yourself during this time, as well as a few NEW hints you probably haven’t read about yet.

1. Keep your normal morning and daytime routine.

This may be the hardest to maintain this far into the pandemic, but it goes a long way. Or, maybe you’ve adjusted and are finding it easy to wake up early and continue with your normal tasks. Do we even remember our former routines any more? Either way, get yourself out of bed, brush your teeth, and get ready for the day. Take a shower or do your makeup if that’s what you’re into. Anything that will make you feel physically better. Once you’re up, it’s important to aim for eating 3 meals a day. It’s easy to lose track of time and forget to eat well while quarantined. Make sure you’re getting fulfilling meals and plenty of water.

2. Stay hydrated!

Over the past few months, you’ve likely read plenty of well-reported content on how to cope with the unprecedented stress of the coronavirus outbreak and the prevention measures that come with it: get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, exercise every day, etc. But, what you maybe haven’t read is how you’re likely not doing one of the things that will bring you the most satisfaction: staying hydrated.

A psychologist who specializes in anxiety and depression, Dr. Gregory Jantz, says that people forget to drink water when they are anxious. Dr. Jantz stresses the importance of continuing to drink throughout the day – especially if you’re working remotely – because water is good for quite literally everything: water affects mood, energy and concentration. Need some help? Set an alarm that goes off hourly to remind yourself to get up and refill your water bottle. And, take this time for a brief stretching break!

3. Think outside the box to build breaks into your routine.

It’s so important to build breaks into your day. Just as you would at the office, make sure to take time to get away from your desk and hit refresh. Use your lunch break as an opportunity to make a picnic to enjoy on the grass outside (this is a great activity if you have kids as well!). If your gym still isn’t open or you are uncomfortable going there, follow an online exercise class, or go out for a walk if permitted. Activities like dancing around the house, playing active video games, or playing with your kids count as physical activity, and can be a helpful way to break up your day.

4. Work on your breathing, because Covid-19 anxiety is real.

It’s really important that we take a few moments to pause and really just relax ourselves and our nervous system. Practice a recommended technique called diaphragmatic breathing: lie down on your back and put your hands on your abdominal region. When you breathe in, make your belly rise. Pause. Exhale slowly, and as you do so your belly should fall. Stay in that position and take 10 deep breaths. Congratulations. You’ve just calmed your nervous system. This is vitally important during the pandemic, as your brain may be cycling through a trauma response even if you’re not aware it’s happening! Curious what that means? Check out #5.

5. Be kind to yourself. What you’re feeling is valid.

This is a hard time, an unprecedented time that we’re all living through. If your emotions are all over the place, you’re in good company. We’re experiencing a collective trauma, and whatever you’re feeling serves a purpose – your brain is causing this as it cycles through the stress response. Because the threat of Covid-19, and a global pandemic, is new in our lifetime, your survival instincts may not know what to do – so your brain cycles through all the stress responses, causing an influx of anxiety and many other emotions for some.

How do we cope with this? To start, by controlling our breathing. If you can control your breathing and take a moment to notice the sounds around you, your brain will receive the message that you are safe in this moment and begin to come out of survival mode and back into connection / thinking mode. The more you do this, the stronger the reaction will be and the more grounded you can feel through this pandemic.

So, be gentle with yourself! Practice self-care in whatever form that looks like for you.

6. Make self-care a priority in your routine.

Finding ways to take care of your mental and physical health during this pandemic will serve great purpose. If social distancing is hitting you hard, write a list of the people and activities that make you happy; try to find time to connect with at least one of these people and do something you enjoy every day. What other activities do you enjoy doing by yourself or in small, safe groups? Are there any books that have been sitting on your bookshelf forever? Consider downloading a mindfulness or meditation app and spend just a few minutes every day following a guided exercise. Maybe a hot shower or bath is your form of self-care. Or a walk on the beach. Whatever it may be, prioritize it and try to make it a part of your routine every day.

Once you’re back in the office, remember to continue making self-care a priority. Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. If you are struggling, know that it is okay to not be okay. There is a lot of uncertainty in these unprecedented times. We hope this offers some helpful tips and tricks to help you prioritize your mental health through quarantine and beyond.

Photo Credit: Canva