Feeling anxious in response to a threat is a normal human reaction but sustained high anxiety can undermine a constructive response to the crisis.
People who already suffer from anxiety and related disorders are especially vulnerable during the coronavirus crisis.
The following are some guidelines that can help you and your family to deal with coronavirus anxiety:
Determine what you can control and what you can’t. There is a certain amount of uncertainty that we have to tolerate going forward. People who have a hard time with uncertainty tend to experience elevated anxiety. Get accurate facts and information from reliable sources including the US Centers for Disease Control and refer to the NYSUT coronavirus toolkit: nysut.org/coronavirus.
Reduce the amount of time on social media and television. Stay connected to friends and family but avoid, if possible, negative individuals who may exacerbate your fears and anxiety.
Strengthen self-care. Get adequate sleep, exercise regularly, eat healthy foods, practice mindfulness, spend time in nature and employ relaxation techniques. Try to keep a routine especially if you are self-quarantined. Developing distractions and activities that take your mind off of the threat and focus on pleasure and relaxation.
Don’t underestimate your resiliency. Although dealing with a pandemic is not an experience many of us have had, there have been times we have lived through a crisis and survived. Remember that you usually have more strength and coping skills than you imagine, particularly when you are stressed.
Make a plan. If finances are a source of concern and anxiety, make a plan or budget to manage your expenses for the next month. Making a plan always helps manage anxiety even if you have to change the plan as time goes on. This can include thinking about vacations or travel that you may have had to cancel and rescheduling them. Try to make as many decisions as you can and avoid simply leaving them “up in air.” Remember that uncertainty feeds anxiety and plans can always change if needed.
Practice gratitude. Focus on what is going well. We are all in this together, even if some may be better equipped to handle challenging medical and mental health concerns.
Do not allow yourself to be too isolated. This is especially true if you are self-quarantined. Stay connected to family and friends by phone or text. Keep a routine. This may be a time to focus on developing or exploring hobbies and interests. Social isolation can be very difficult so make sure you have a plan for how to manage it so that you don’t become too depressed or irritable.
Seek professional help if you need it. This is a very difficult time for many of us but particularly for individuals who have pre-existing anxiety and or related disorders. Do not hesitate to reach out for help from a doctor or mental health professional.
Many school districts and employers have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that you may access if you need to talk to a counselor. If you are covered by the New York State Health Insurance Program (The Empire Plan), you may call 877-769-7447, option 3. Ask to talk to a counselor for support and or a referral. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
NYSUT Social Services is always available to you and your family should you have difficulty.
Feeling helpless during this stressful time is normal. Following these strategies can help all of us deal with the epidemic more effectively.