Covid-19, Quarantine and Anxiety
The Coronavirus (Covid-19) is here. Toilet paper, not so much.
The world now has anxiety, which is completely understandable. Now, what about us folks that suffer panic attacks weekly, daily, or even hourly? Things have gone up a notch. With all the news of how bad it is and being stuck inside, everything is pretty intense.
Do I have the virus? What was that cough about? Is it just allergies?
If you aren’t freaking out about getting sick, maybe you are feeling claustrophobic due to being quarantined? Having fear and being stuck inside is not usually a great combo, unless of course you are agoraphobic. Then, maybe it’s not so bad?
Mental health stress during this Covid-19 pandemic can include:
- Fear and worry about the health of you, your family, and friends
- Changes in eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased intake of alcohol, tobacco, and/or drugs
The Coronavirus and quarantine makes anxiety disorder interesting. Before many anxiety sufferers would rather stay home than head out to an event. Now, being forced to stay home you may want to get out more than ever. It’s weird how that works.
There’s Nothing Wrong With Feeling Anxious Right Now
Just about everyone is currently afraid. People are freaking out. Right now it is normal to have a panic attack. For the first time in a long time, almost everyone in the world is nervous.
If you have suffered from panic attacks you are very much NOT alone. For people struggling with mental health it seems we have prepared for this moment our entire lives. Always nervous, never completely comfortable. Sounds like now and everybody with the Coronavirus outbreak and quarantine.
One of the main issues that cause a panic attack is about feeling embarrassed, especially in a normal situation. Well, there’s good news. Now is not normal times. If you panic, society will accept it as completely normal. It kind of takes the edge away doesn’t it?
We must continue to discuss mental health. This pandemic has taken over. It seems like it’s every man and woman for himself/herself. Prescriptions for anti-anxiety meds are up. This is a reversal from the last few years, during which Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium prescriptions have declined. Make sure to get your medical advice from your healthcare provider. There’s a lot of information out there, some beneficial and a lot not so much.
Ways To Deal With Coronavirus Anxiety
- Take a break from watching the news
- Go outside and take a walk around your block
- Try to eat healthy meals
- Exercise whenever possible
- Try to get plenty of sleep
- Avoid alcohol
- Try to cutback on caffeine intake
- Try writing, drawing, painting, sculpting, and/or origami
- Connect with others over the phone and/or over apps like Zoom
- Drink lots of water
Check In With Your Health Care Professional
If You Need Help
Anyone who does not have a degree of anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic has really not been paying attention or is living in denial. The problem is not going to suddenly go away and each of us needs to deal with social isolation on one hand or the risk of getting the disease while working in a critical job. Denial is not a good choice, especially if you need to suit up every day in the ICU to take care of sick patients. Thus, the approach all of us need to take is to assess our risks, do the things we need to do, and find ways to help curb our anxiety.
Anxiety Is a Good Thing (Usually)
The basic reason we human have anxiety is that it keeps us out of dangerous situations. We learn to prepare for situations or respond in ways that are healthier and safer when we pay attention to why we are afraid. Thus, anxiety can be good thing in our lives. However, when we are constantly worried and afraid and our fears are out of proportion to the risks involved, this becomes debilitating. Being too worried, too often, and being worried out of proportion to the real concerns of life is what an anxiety disorder is all about.
How Do You Cope With The Stresses of Coronavirus If You Already Have an Anxiety Disorder?
Do you have a panic disorder or other anxiety disorder? How does an obsessive-compulsive disorder fit into this picture or a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? If you have already suffered from this sort of problem you need to check in with your mental health professional during these trying times.
When you chat with your mental health professional, you get a chance to voice your concerns and put them in sharper focus. So often we suffer from anxieties that emerged from pasts trials in our life. Putting these events in perspective as they relate to your life today is important and useful. And, many of the coping skills that you learned over time when dealing your chronic anxiety problems will be useful when applied to today’s concerns.
Because of social distancing concerns, you may wish to take advantage of the telehealth visits now available with many health plans and individual therapists. If you need to seek someone new, check to see if they offer this option.
Search for where your feelings of fear and anxiety are coming from. When you do this, you will be better able to cope with your fears and avoid the triggers that tend to set off panic attacks. A good way to deal with your fears is also to admit that you tend to overreact to events compared to your friends, coworkers, or family. Keeping telling yourself that part of why you are anxious is that you tend to “practice” this sort of behavior. This will always help you put your feelings in perspective.
When you can put a name to your fears and understand where they originated you can practice reminding yourself, “that was then and this is now.” Simply keeping the past and present separate in your mind is a good way to put your fears in perspective and reduce them.
Because those of us with chronic anxiety problems tend to continually “rehearse” our anxiety concerns, they gain more power over us. A useful exercise that those with PTSD find helpful is to look back to happy, carefree, and successful events in your life. Rehearse these every day and you will start to diminish the power of your fears.
Tell Yourself Again and Again That You Can Handle
Because the basis of anxiety is fear of harm, fear of failing, or fear of virtually anything, rehearsing it tends to make you believe that you are in terrible danger unless you submit to the fear. But, folks with chronic anxiety disorders have survived despite their fear for years. You need to remind yourself of this and keep telling yourself that you will survive, overcome, and win in the end. Not only should you keep telling yourself that you can manage but you should also routinely practice the things that help you reduce your anxiety. Talking with friends and family generally helps as they can also keep reminding you that you, and not your fears, are in charge of your life.
When you practice healthy activities, and thoughts, you feel better and this reinforces the belief that you and not your fears are in charge. Do healthy activities, interact in healthy relationships, and find folks who are supportive to hang out with.
There Is More To Life Than Fight or Flight
The fight or flight response (and belief) is often part and parcel of anxiety problems. However, in most situations neither of these is appropriate. Especially in the current pandemic when social distancing is all important, picking fights or running away and pretending the problem does not exist do not work. Pay attention to the advice of public health professionals, abide by that advice, and keep reminding yourself that you are doing the things necessary in these trying times.
You have probably learned useful coping skills along the way if you have had to deal with an anxiety disorder for a long time. Now is the time to make a list of what works and routinely practice the things that you know from experience will help.
Remind yourself every day and as often as you need to that the original conditions in your life that brought on your anxiety problems no longer exist. This way of separating yourself from your past will help you focus on the present and your own needs at this time of coronavirus infection.
If you are following the advice you see everywhere about what to do to reduce your risk and the risk to others of infection, you are doing everything that you can. And, you are as safe as you can be. Do what you need to do regarding Covid-19 and keep reminding yourself that what you are doing is good. Give yourself a “pat on the back” for doing your part and let yourself feel good about doing the right things!
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If you are in crisis or think you may have an emergency, call your doctor, go to the emergency room, or call 911 immediately. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a trained counselor.