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Some Tips to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety and Uncertainty

Very Well / Catherine Song

With the outbreak of the Coronavirus, many of us are adjusting our lives to protect ourselves and the vulnerable populations who are most at risk. With so much change and uncertainty, it is understandable if you are feeling somewhat shaky, confused, anxious, and afraid. Due to social distancing, our schedules are disrupted, our social contact is minimized, and our future plans are in limbo. With so much shifting and with the influx of news and media about the virus, it is hard to know how to respond and what to do to keep our anxiety manageable.

Here are some of my favorite tips to mitigate anxiety and uncertainty during this time:

1) Do your best to practice mindfulness. Try to stay grounded in the present moment and take life one moment at a time. Anxiety likes to catastrophize and future-trip. Staying in the present is the best way to keep those thoughts from spiraling. Build moments of mindfulness into your habits. Even washing your hands can be a time to breathe and invite more awareness. Those 20 seconds can even turn into a short meditation.

2) Offer yourself empathy and gentleness. This is a strange and unfamiliar experience and many of us are shifting our routines and may not have our usual resources available. Anxiety and worry are very normal with this level of change and uncertainty. Give yourself some comfort and grace if you find that you are having a challenging time. You are just trying to adjust and adapt. We are all practicing how to tolerate uncertainty and fear. It is a big task but we can remember that we're doing our best. Rather than fighting against anxiety, just accept that it is here and give it space with curiosity.

3) Find ways to connect with others, even if you can't be in the same room. Use this time as an opportunity to reach out to people in your community. There is a difference between social distancing and isolating. You can still reach out for support and connection, even if you are alone at home.

4) Use uncomfortable feelings as fuel to better understand who you want to be.The Coronavirus may inevitably bring up larger fears that we usually keep in the recesses of our mind: worry about our health and the health of our loved ones, and the fear of death. Themes around our mortality may come up. These can actually be openings for deep reflection and can also be ways to tap into your more creative self. Journaling, engaging in some type of art, or chatting with others about these themes can help you better understand yourself, your values, your hopes for your life, and your choices. I'm so happy to explore these themes during therapy if they come up for you.

5) Remember your strength and resiliency. You have been through a lot in your life. You've already overcome many events. This is just another chapter. Use this as an opportunity to strengthen your self-care: get some sleep, practice eating well, and tap into your more restful activities (embrace YIN energy). This can be a chance to sit with your feelings and notice what is true for you. Rather than distracting yourself from your feelings, maybe this is a chance to confront and explore them.

6) Reach out if you feel like you need extra support. Mental health professionals are here to support you during this time. If you feel you need to talk to someone, reach out to a therapist or call a free hotline if you need more immediate support.

  • Mental Health America Hotline: Text MHA to 741741. Mental Health America is a nationwide organization that provides assistance through this text line. You will be linked to someone who can guide you through a crisis or just provide information.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. Crisis intervention and free emotional support are available, which is helpful when you need confidential assistance during a time of emotional distress for you or a loved one. The helpline is open 24/7, and a live online chat is available as well.

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