If you’re noticing that you’re feeling more anxious lately, you’re not alone. We’re all adjusting to unprecedented circumstances and uncertainty, and it’s normal and natural to experience increased anxiety and distress as a result. Try not to judge yourself for any feelings that come up. It’s okay to feel however you’re feeling right now.
Below are some tips to help cope with anxiety during this time:
1) Limit news and information consumption
While it can feel empowering to stay informed, overconsumption of news and information can lead to an increase in anxiety. Limiting the amount of time you spend watching, listening to or reading the news can help.
You might consider limiting yourself to 30 minutes, once a day, and relying on verified and trusted organizations like the CDC and World Health Organization.
Take note of the time of day that you check the news as well. If you tend to feel most anxious at night, check for news updates earlier in the day, so it doesn’t disrupt your bedtime routine.
It can also be helpful to limit social media consumption during this time.
2) Set boundaries
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed listening to a friend or family member share about their coronavirus related worries, it’s okay to set a boundary and let them know that while you care about them, you’re limiting the amount of time you’re spending talking about COVID. Setting boundaries can feel especially hard in difficult circumstances like these, but you’ll likely find that the more you practice, the easier it becomes. It’s the practice of putting your own oxygen mask on before assisting others.
3) Stay connected
It’s important to maintain connection to your friends, your family, your community and yourself.
Identify who you feel most comfortable reaching out to for a distraction and a laugh and who you feel most comfortable reaching out to for support if you are feeling overwhelmed. Apps like FaceTime, Zoom and HouseParty allow you to stay connected with friends and family via video. Share what you feel grateful for each day and swap self-care ideas.
Connect to your community by checking in with your neighbor; slide a note under their door, or send a letter to a nursing home. If you are able, consider donating to a charity or supporting a local business. Helping others can reduce anxiety and improve mood.
Connect with a therapist. Learn more about yourself, your anxiety and additional ways to manage anxiety and process emotions. Many therapists are offering telehealth services so you can easily access care from the comfort and safety of your home.
4) Create routine and focus on what you can control
Navigating the unknown can feel unnerving. Finding ways to add structure and routine to your day can help you feel more grounded. You don’t need to have each hour of the day accounted for, but having a few tasks and self-care activities and a general timeline can help minimize stress and lead to a sense of accomplishment.
Cross off the tasks that have been pushed to the bottom of your to-do list. While avoiding tasks can provide an immediate sense of relief, avoidance leads to an increase in anxiety over time. What we resist, persists. So completing those tedious tasks can result in feeling more in control.
If you find that you’re unable to stop or slow your worrisome thoughts, you might consider scheduling ‘worry time’ into your day or week as a way to contain the thoughts. When worrisome thoughts come up, remind yourself that there will be time to come back to these thoughts during the scheduled time.
5) Practice self-care
Self-care comes in countless forms. Ask yourself what you need in this moment. It might be a nap or a call with a friend, it might be a bowl of kale or a bowl of ice cream. The practice of self-care is about learning how to attend to your individual needs.
Let’s start with the basics: exercise, eat nourishing food, get regular sleep, stay hydrated, and connect with loved ones. It might not feel possible to check all of these boxes every day, and that’s okay! It’s called self-care practice, not perfection.
Allow yourself time to feel. Identifying your emotions can provide some relief- name it to tame it. Allotting 20 minutes for activities like meditation and journaling can be helpful. Utilize support from friends, family or a therapist to help process difficult emotions.
If you find yourself ruminating on worrisome thoughts, grounding techniques to come back to your body and the present moment can be helpful. For example, focus on your senses and identify a few things that you see, hear, feel, smell and taste; notice what the carpet feels like under your feet, the feeling of your fingertips on your clothing, the feeling of the couch, chair or bed supporting you. Or you might try progressive muscle relaxation to ease tension in your body, slow your breathing and heart rate and relax.
Additionally, find activities you enjoy or find relaxing: meditation, yoga, journaling, reading, listening to music, watching tv/movies, doing puzzles, playing board games, coloring, painting, cooking, baking, napping, taking a hot shower or bath, enjoying a cup of tea.
The more you practice self-care the easier it becomes to create balance and use the tools when they are most needed.
Jamie is a therapist with Peaceful Way Psychology. She works with individuals who are experiencing issues such as anxiety, depression, difficulty adjusting to life transitions, grief, and relationship difficulties.