I never thought I would need to write a post like this. But here it is. I want to offer effective and sensible strategies for managing the many stresses and the anxiety that comes with this unprecedented viral pandemic.
Know the Warning Signs
These common signs of distress are your body, mind, and soul letting you know that you may at your stress-limit:
- Feelings of numbness, disbelief, anxiety or fear.
- Changes in appetite, energy, and activity levels.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Difficulty sleeping or nightmares and upsetting thoughts and images.
- Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes.
- Worsening of chronic health problems.
- Anger, irritability or short-temper.
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs to ‘numb out’.
You may notice that some of these resemble the symptoms of depression. That doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting depressed. It likely means that you are straining to adjust to profoundly new and challenging circumstances and your nervous system is hyper-activated or sending you towards a ‘shut down’ state.
Know How to Respond to the Warning Signs
- Take care of yourself physically – As one writer put it, the body is the vehicle we have available to us to navigate life on earth. And it’s the only body that we get, so we should probably treat it well and take care of it. Eat healthy and sensibly, get some exercise regularly – it doesn’t have to be a marathon, just 20 minutes, and get enough sleep. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs. These things numb a person out and do not help the situation!
- Educate yourself– Sometimes we feel more anxiety than we need to because we are missing information that is available for the asking. When you feel that you are missing information, or don’t know what to do, it may be best to turn on the news or ask a friend who might know.
(Men this applies to us too when we don’t know where we are going. It’s okay to ask for directions) . It is always best to go to ‘the horses mouth’; government sources, etc for the most accurate information.
- Avoid too much exposure to news– Everything in moderation. Take breaks from the news. Fixating on the news can fuel anxiety and worry. So limit the length of time you are focused on the news.
- Connect with others– One of the most powerful things we can do to reduce our anxiety and worry is to connect with others. Share your concerns and feelings with a trusted friend or family member. Work towards building a strong support system. Of course, at this time connecting with social distancing means making contact through phone or a video platform like Skype, face time or zoom.
- Reach out for help when you need to and don’t wait– Stress and some anxiety is a normal part of life, but if the anxiety about the Corona Virus is getting in the way of you functioning effectively at work or at home, then that’s a sign to reach out.
Reach out to a spiritual leader if that is appropriate for you and/or a counselling therapist.
The Not-So-Basic Stuff
There are a number of practices that can work directly on your nervous system to calm down the stress-response (racing heart, sweaty palm, difficulty concentrating, butterfly in the stomach). Here are a few of them. Note you may or may not notice a benefit immediately. These are called practices because they work when you practice them.
- Diaphragmatic breathing – Singers know that breathing from the belly, not the upper chest is ‘good breathing’.
- Butterfly Hug – This simple practice can be used as a mainteneance practice or on an ‘as needed’ basis.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation – This practice is easy to learn and take with you throughout your day.
- Practicing Kindness – Okay, this is a lighter video and prescription but be assured it is clinically proven to quiet the nervous system and improve wellbeing.
- Practicing gratitude– also lighter sounding but also clinically proven to benefit wellbeing.
Know When to Reach Out
People are generally strong and resilient. Even in trying times like this Corona Virus pandemic people generally are carrying on with life and integrating the necessary adjustments into their daily and weekly life. Of course, if the stresses compound and it becomes difficult to function effectively, or difficult to regulate emotions then it may be time to reach out for spiritual of therapeutic help.
The therapists at Russell & Associates are able to provide clinically proven strategies beyond what you have read above to help you handles these times. Of course in keeping with recommendations from health officials we are not meeting in conventional face to face office appointments. We are using secure video-conferencing technologies to meet virtually. Research indicates that distance therapy is as effective and as satisfying for clients as face to face therapy.
Contact one of the therapists today here.