Managing Anxiety In Relation to COVID-19
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created an environment filled with fear and uncertainty. Many people are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression for the first time and it is becoming more difficult for those with preexisting mental health conditions to cope. Dr. Anthony Chico, Chief, Emergency Psychiatry at GBMC, offers advice for maintaining mental health to those experiencing these symptoms and their loved ones.
Get some fresh air – Make an effort to get up and move throughout the day rather than sitting in front of your computer screen for eight hours. Getting outside (while maintaining social distancing guidelines) is good for both your physical and mental health.
Maintain a routine – In times of crisis, maintaining a sense of normalcy can make a huge difference in your level of anxiety. Anxiety feeds off of uncertainty, so knowing how your day is going to go and planning ways to diversify your activities is very helpful for staying calm. Creating set roles and expectations can also help children who are staying at home. Be sure to make this routine together, so that your children feel included and you aren’t simply dictating.
Stay connected with friends and family – “Social distancing does not equate to isolation,” says Dr. Chico. While it’s necessary for stopping the spread of COVID-19, staying at home and not seeing the people you normally interact with can make you feel detached and lonely. Be sure to reach out to the people you’re close to so that you don’t feel alone.
Take time to be quiet – “It’s challenging to slow down in such a fast-paced world. Learning to be alone with your own thoughts can be foreign to us.” Try taking a walk without your headphones in or practice calming exercises like meditation and visualization. There are many apps and websites that offer free resources for learning these techniques. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to become in tune with your feelings.
Find a sense of purpose by helping others – It’s easy to become discouraged and feel helpless in situations like the one we’re in. To find a sense of purpose, look for opportunities to help others. Check in on your elderly neighbors and family members to see if they need anything or donate a meal to healthcare workers who are sacrificing so much to keep us safe. Click here to support GBMC’s HealthCare Workers Fund and click here to send encouraging words to our frontline workers.
Limit your media intake – Stepping away from screens and social media will help to reduce anxiety about COVID-19. “Media is rich in theories and thoughts but lacking in hard facts,” says Dr. Chico. Be knowledgeable and safe, but make sure that you’re getting information from reliable sources like the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO). Be especially careful about intaking media around bedtime – a regular sleep schedule is necessary for your mental health.
When asked about his advice for healthcare workers, Dr. Chico said that it’s important to remember why they entered the profession. Now, more than ever, is the time to truly make a difference in people’s lives. Lean on coworkers for support – they are going through the same experiences and know how you feel.
While these tips are helpful for reducing anxiety, they may not be enough for everyone. If you're having intrusive thoughts that won't go away or are having trouble getting through your day, it may be time to seek help. Don't discount your own feelings and don't be ashamed to reach out to a professional. Many therapists and psychiatrists are offering telephone or video sessions so that people can access them from home and stay safe. Crisis resources are also available if you need immediate help. The Maryland Crisis Hotline can be reached by dialing 211.
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