5 Effective Ways to Cope with Anxiety During a Pandemic
2020 has been an incredibly tough year for everyone around the world. The year is certainly nothing anyone thought it would be. Many people have become ill and even lost their lives to COVID-19. And many more continue to panic and struggle with anxiety about either becoming ill with the disease itself, the potential of losing a loved one, various other impacts of COVID on our day-to-day interactions (or lack of interaction as we social distance ourselves from others, or the effects that all of this will have on our lives and on the planet long-term. If worried sounds like an understatement, you’re not alone!
But, amidst the pandemic, we must all do our part to keep ourselves from panicking and being enslaved to our anxieties. After all, panic never truly helps anyone. If you’re feeling more anxious than not lately, consider these 5 effective ways you can help yourself cope with the anxiety caused by this global pandemic, and consider sharing these coping techniques with your family and friends that may need some help too.
1. Avoid Obsessing Over the News
Technology allows us to track the news whenever we want, and as responsible citizens, we work hard to make sure we are checking in once a day. It’s important to keep informed! Except when you are living during a global pandemic, and you find yourself obsessing over every detail you can find on this disease, how it is being treated, what’s going on with it, and what you should do to protect yourself. It’s easy to get lost in the rabbit hole, but it’s not healthy.
In fact, this constant method of checking is more harmful than helpful. Soon, what has become a daily check in forms into an obsession, and your paranoia grows. Yes, it is vital to stay informed and keep up-to-date, but, it shouldn’t come at the cost of your sanity. There’s a lot of misinformation being spread around right now, and it’s important for you to protect not only your body, but your mind as well. So, how do you stay up-to-date with the most accurate information possible, without adding to your anxiety?
- Pick and stick to trustworthy sources, like your local news channel, and global health organizations like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). Avoid larger news portals with a lot of debate surrounding them, oftentimes, these types of outlets are prioritizing gaining your views, instead of giving you accurate news.
- Limit yourself, this means limiting the amount of times you check your news channels and website, and if need be, how much time you spend on your phone, computer, or watching TV altogether. It is important to practice self-control at any time, but especially when it comes to news consumption now. Many phones and computers come with options where you can set internal automatic timers for site and technology use. If need be, try out these functions to help yourself detox for a bit.
- Take a break from the media if you begin feeling overwhelmed! This is a general rule instilled years ago to help individuals improve their mental health. If something online is affecting you negatively in a prolonged, or excessive manner, then the best thing you can do for yourself is walk away. It’s okay to take a break from social media and the news, and you can take as long as you need to feel better.
- Fact check what you are reading before you share and don’t share too often. Again, there is a lot of misinformation being spread right now. We want to make sure only the best, most accurate information is shared. So, just like you’ve checked out which news networks you can trust, make sure you double-check the news you share. Look after yourself, and those around you too. Keep in mind that limiting the amount of time you spend on social media, should also mean limiting the amount you share. Oversharing can bombard yourself and others, and inflates your risk of sharing misinformation as well.
2. Avoid Focussing on Things Out of Your Control
We are all living in a time of chaos, inconsistency and societal change as a result of COVID-19. Sadly, at this point in time, there isn’t much we can do about that fact. It’s important to remember that there are things we simply cannot change, or control. And it is also important not to focus on those things.
Instead, distract yourself by focusing on the things you do have control of. And we don’t mean becoming godzilla in the house and making everyone clean 24/7. Instead, when your mind begins to feel anxious, and you find yourself scouring the internet in an attempt to find answers, or overthinking every single scenario trying to find a way to “beat the corona game”, try taking a few deep breaths, steering your mind away from the unknown, and shifting your focus onto the things you CAN do or CAN control, in order to keep you, your family, and your community as safe as possible. Focus instead on minimizing risk, and living healthier by:
- Making sure to wash your hands often. Count to 20 or recite your ABCs.
- Use hand sanitizer – in place of washing your hands – often. Anything 60% alcohol and above should work just fine.
- Social distance when seeing friends or family who don’t live with you, and when out in public. Keep that 6 foot circle in mind.
- Stay home as much as you can. If you don’t need to go out, then stay in.
- Get some fresh air and sunshine in your own backyard, or on a socially distanced walk around your neighborhood.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Learn a new anxiety management technique or breathing practice, like the 5,4,3,2,1 technique. It’s a technique that helps you center yourself by picking out 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can listen to or hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
- Take vitamins to help support your immune system.
- Get some exercise in. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme, just a little extra movement to help keep your body going and healthy.
- Avoid gatherings of 10 people or more.
- Avoid all non-essential traveling.
- Follow recommendations made by health organizations.
- Try as hard as you can to keep your hands away from your face, and out of your mouth. Many of us have habits we are unaware of when it comes to touching our faces, like rubbing our eyes when we are tired or biting our nails. We know it’s hard, but please try to be more aware.
Many of these same activities that will keep you healthy and help you to avoid stress are equally encouraged in recovery to help you minimize the risk of relapse. Unfortunately, things like “social distancing” are not conducive to recovery and may be causing you to feel anxious about where you currently stand in your recovery journey. If you’re feeling like you need social interaction, and your recovery is at risk, strap on a mask and head to your nearest meeting, support group, or friend, family member, or sponsor’s home for chat. You certainly don’t want to throw away your recovery as a result of things you have no control over!
3. Be Proactive & Plan Ahead
With all the uncertainty happening in the world today, sometimes the best way to help yourself remain calm, cool, and collected is to plan ahead and be proactive. During a time like this it’s natural to feel concern for yourself, your family, members, and your friends, especially as businesses, workplaces, and schools begin to open again. So how can you be proactive, and plan ahead to manage your possible anxieties?
- Make a list of your specific concerns regarding coronavirus, and how it may affect your life. Write it or type it down so you have a physical copy to look back on. If you begin feeling anxious while writing, or feel overwhelmed, take a break, walk away, and come back to the list when you feel more at ease. Now is a good time to list the concerns you have pertaining to how this could impact your recovery.
- Now, write down every solution you can think of, (that is actually possible to complete) as an answer to your previous list. Include anything and everything that occurs to you, but try not to get hung up on making the solution list perfect. Just make it so that it is manageable, and can help you work through your troubles. Do you need additional recovery therapies to restore your faith in your ability to remain abstinent from drugs or alcohol?
- Again, focus on the problems and circumstances you can work through, and not the aspects of COVID-19 and society that you cannot change. If it helps you to have a specific pair of shoes and clothes to wear out for groceries, and change out of and wash them immediately when you get home, then do so. Again, don’t get too hung up on making the process perfect though.
- After you’ve considered all of your scenarios and options to meet these circumstances, physically draw out and detail your plan of action. How will you do your shopping? What cleaning measures will you take? Do you have a ritual to clean your car after shopping that isn’t too extensive? Like sanitizing your hands and the steering wheel? Again, taking especially care to not make the list of actions too perfect. You want to help yourself feel more prepared to handle the world and corona, not more worked up and fearful.
- Lastly, be empathetic to yourself and others. Remind yourself you’re not the only one who is experiencing these struggles, find others who are struggling too, see what they suggest, share your ideas, and support one another through it all. Together, we can make it through.
4. Connect With Friends & Family
Now, we know that social distancing and staying home are two huge ways to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but this does not mean you have to isolate yourself completely. Remember, even if you are healthy, stay home as much as you can for the safety of others. You can still carry the virus without showing symptoms. But again, you don’t have to feel isolated while protecting yourself, your family members, friends and even strangers. For individuals undergoing treatment at a Florida addiction and recovery center, the need for connection and support is especially high. Addiction recovery cannot happen without the support of family and friends, so even though you may not be able to connect in person, it is important to keep in touch, with your family, friends, and your support system as well, to help manage your addiction recovery and prevent relapse.
As much as technology can be toxic at times, it can be beautiful as well, and you don’t need to engage in social media to enjoy the benefits of it. If you are avoiding social media because your mind needs a break, you can still:
- Call a friend or family member.
- Video chat.
- Write a letter.
- Play games from a distance (there are many new online games and activities you can participate in together.
- Learn and share in new hobbies like cooking or baking.
- You can even watch the same movie at the same time online, and video chat simultaneously to discuss it.
- Or read a book together and then talk about it.
- Don’t let COVID dominate every conversation you have. Talk about your favorite song, shows you’ve been watching recently, that weird thing your dog, cat, hamster or lizard did when you tried petting it. There are millions of things you can talk about.
Just because we are social distancing, doesn’t mean we need to isolate ourselves completely. It is important to stay connected to those that you love. Remember, they need your support now, just as much as you need theirs. Get creative with it! Even if it means waving at each other through a window, or making art and sharing it with each other. Coronavirus has not canceled communication.
5. Practice Self-Care
Lastly, practice self-care. Now, if you are a woman, you have probably talked a lot with your friends in the past about self-care, and your personal caring for yourself techniques. But self-care should be practiced by everyone, especially during COVID-19. Even doctors practise self-care routines! And for individuals undergoing addiction recovery, self-care can not only be grounding and stabilizing, but life saving. Coronavirus has produced an incredibly stressful time for us all, and in order to stay healthy, it is important we take care of not only our minds, but our bodies as well. Some ways you can practice self-care include:
- Set yourself up with a morning ritual that extends into a daytime routine, but make sure to change it up every once and a while so you don’t get bored. You can start by taking a shower, making coffee, stretching, as long as it wakes you up and helps you feel grounded.
- Be kind to yourself, and empathetic towards others. Everyone is struggling in one way or another right now, and it’ll help drastically if we not only support ourselves, but others as well. Celebrate the good times, and don’t get too hard on yourself when you miss the mark. If relapse does occur, call to get help quickly so that you can get back on track. SJRP admissions are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, regardless of COVID-19. Call us at 833-397-3422 if you need help.
- Get outside as much as possible. Sunshine cures a lot of problems, and fresh air helps to cleanse and clear the mind, as well as ease the body. Time outdoors is always time well spent.
- Watch your favorite show, or do any other activity you equally enjoy, as long as it brings you happiness. You can read, write, sing, practice an instrument, play with your dog, or even paint a wall or clean.
- Keep up with school and work. You’ll realize that having something to work away at will help keep your mind occupied instead of just getting in the way.
- Exercise! You’ve probably saved a few workouts you always wanted to try, but never had the time. Well, the gyms aren’t open now, but it’s the perfect time to give your body a little extra work to do, especially with all of the time you’ve spent indoors recently. Even walking is a great form of exercise!
- Eat a well prepared healthy meal, drink water, and get plenty of sleep. Take care of your mind, and your body, inside and out.
- Take care of your skin, hair and nails. You may not be able to go out and get a haircut, or a manicure, but keeping your nails and hair clean, and your skin moisturized, does wonders for your mental state.
- Take up a new relaxation practice. Or combine a breathing technique with your workout. Try yoga, give meditating a go, practice a new relaxation stretching routine. Your mind and body will thank you after.
- Talk to your best friend. They’ve missed you too, and having a good laugh over something that happened years ago, or even yesterday as you tried to do a new yoga pose, will do you both wonders.
- And above all else, try your best to avoid self-medicating. If you can’t sleep, or you’re feeling depressed or anxious because of the events surrounding you, don’t turn to pills to help you feel better. Instead try any of these techniques we have listed above. All of them should help you relax, get better sleep, and lighten your mood.
At the end of the day, COVID affects us all, but it doesn’t need to run or ruin every aspect of our lives. You may feel scared, anxious or uncertain about a lot of things right now, but you are not alone. In addiction recovery and in a society battling COVID-19, SJRP is here to help you make it through these difficult times. It is possible, and you are strong enough to do it. If you ever feel anxious refer back to this list of techniques, practices, and reminders to help you feel more grounded and secure. Eventually, the world will level out again, but until then, do you best to stay safe & sober.