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Food for Thought: Corona & anxiety

| April 2, 2020 11:26 AM

As the number of coronavirus cases increase so does the nation’s anxiety increase.

In addition to generalized anxiety many people feel, there are two other distinct groups who may be experiencing heightened anxiety at the moment.

The first is those with an underlying anxiety related to their health. The second group are those who have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) particularly in regard to germs or contamination.

Anxiety thrives on uncertainty. As this virus spreads, unanswered questions can make us feel vulnerable or fearful.

“Am I at risk?” “How long will this last?” “How long should I self-isolate?”

The nation is experiencing a kind of shared stress and we are all in a state of extreme uncertainty. However, the more you stress, the more vulnerable you become because stress lowers the immune system. Practice learning how to tolerate uncertainty. Ease back on immediately answering a text. Reduce the number of times you consult the internet for an update on the virus.

The following steps can help alleviate anxiety.

- Limit your exposure to the news. While it is important to be informed, obsessing over the news has the unintended effect of elevating your fears. If you are taking basic steps to protect yourself and stay informed, that is enough.

Once you unplug from the news, try a mindfulness app such as Headspace or Simply Being to help you let go of anxiety. Practice mindfulness.

- Anxiety rises proportionally to how much one tries to get rid of it. Carl Jung once said “What you resist persists.” Struggling against anxiety can take many forms. People may try to distract themselves by drinking, eating,or watching Netflix more than usual.

They may constantly check the news updates to calm their fears. Avoiding the experience of anxiety almost always backfires. Instead, let your anxious thoughts, feelings and physical sensations wash over you, accepting anxiety as an integral part of human experience. Facing anxiety in the moment will lead to less anxiety over time

- Have a structured routine every day. Rise, get dressed, do chores and exercise. Routine anchors emotional balance to offset the unpredictability and stressful aspects of life.

- Don’t panic. Many people have a tendency to imagine the worse. If you are one of them jot down your worst fears about the future. Address them one by one with a trusted level headed friend.

- Health threats often trigger the fear of death. When faced with reminders of one’s own mortality, people might become consumed with their health and hyperfocus on any signs of illness. Try to connect to your life‘s purpose and meaning, be it spiritual, relationships or pursuit of a cause. Get out of yourself and focus on the people and things around you. How can you help and contribute in this situation?

- Parents are a physical and emotional lifeline for their children. They serve as role models and children take their cues from them. If parents find ways to regulate anxiety and deal with uncertainty, their children will feel safe and learn to cope.

- Some people fear they will not be able to manage if the virus appears in town. They worry about a quarantine, loss of a paycheck childcare etc. If this happens research shows people tend to overestimate the negative impact and underestimate how well they adjust to difficult situations.

Believing you are more resilient than you think can help attenuate your anxiety.

- Eating balanced meals, sleeping well, exercising and practicing meditation promote feelings of well being, boost immunity and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Stay Healthy! Wash those hands. Practice social distancing and self-isolate.

- Dr. Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW,LCPC is a psychotherapist in Thompson Falls. She can be contacted at 827-0700.

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