If feeling anxious and vulnerable has become a part of your life and you are clueless about how to deal with it, check this blog for six powerful coping techniques for anxiety.
“I don’t have any more hand sanitizer, and all of the stores are sold out,” Marla* told me. “I’m glad that I’ll be working from home next week,” she added, “although I think I might go nuts just being alone in my small apartment.”
Matt* told me, “I’m not worried about myself. But I’m concerned about my 86-year-old dad. I’d like to go see him, but I’d have to travel by public transportation, and then I’d be taking a chance of contaminating him.”
Jared* said, “I think this fear-mongering is just making everything worse. How much of it is hype? And what’s the reality of the danger? Nobody has any answers.”
And Melissa* said, “I’m going to be home with my children and husband for the foreseeable future. I’m terrified about everything that’s going on in the world. How am I going to manage?”
In the last few days, almost every conversation in my psychotherapy office has been tinged with anxiety, if not panic. Concerns about COVID-19 colored almost every session, no matter who the client was, and no matter what problems had brought them into therapy. My colleagues report much the same—even if anxiety about COVID-19 isn’t the main topic of a session, almost every client mentions it in one way or another when they enter the room.
Even individuals who are not in high-risk categories are anxious. And while the methods being instituted to help contain the virus are giving people some hope, they are also, as Jared said, increasing rather than diminishing the sense of worry and vulnerability in many people.
Research has shown that stress can exacerbate both physical and emotional vulnerability, so it is important to reduce stress at the same time that we’re working to avoid the possibility of contamination. But how do you lower your stress level when everything around you seems to be conspiring to increase your anxiety?
Many of my colleagues have been writing about how to manage anxiety in this time of high stress. I’ve collected several of their suggestions and added some of my own.
First, take realistic steps and precautions to protect yourself, your loved ones, and others around you from the disease by following the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines.
In her book 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, Susan Albers says that there are two big categories of soothing: Soothe your body and soothe your brain.
Here’re 6 powerful Coping Techniques For Anxiety and Vulnerability
1. Let’s Start With Soothing Your Body.
Albers suggests a number of ways to stop feeling anxious, including exercise, sleep, soothing scents, a warm, comforting bath, self-massage, and self-hypnosis (for which you can find several online apps). Some of these are easy enough to do. Exercise, which research has shown to be effective in lowering stress, may already be part of your life when you’re at your office, but it’s just as important now, whether you’re working from home or staying in with your family.
Getting a physical workout lowers stress hormones and raises the endorphins or “feel good” chemicals in your body. Right now, although gyms and exercise studios are closed, many are offering live online classes; and there are plenty of online yoga, Zumba, Pilates, and other exercise videos that you can choose from. If you’re on your own, but want company, get a friend to watch it and work out at the same time, while each in your own home.
If you’re home with kids or a partner, find something that you can all do, push the furniture to the walls, and get moving together. Getting outside can be important as well. Go for a run or a walk—observing social distancing rules — and get the added benefits of being outside, breathing deeply, exercising, and at least seeing other people from a safe distance.
An extra note about seeing others outside — many people have complained that wearing masks and keeping distance makes us feel afraid of one another. Make the effort to say hello, from a distance, or to offer a friendly wave. Most people will appreciate it, and you may find yourself feeling more connected and less isolated, even without close contact.