The Covid-19 disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus is scary. Our world has changed and we don't know for how long or if any of the new changes will be permanent. News continues to broadcast frightening statistics and fear continues to abound. If you are already experiencing anxiety this is a potent combination that can further exacerbate your symptoms. You may worry more and have more fearful thoughts.
As social distancing and social isolation carries on for months it is grinding people down and causing more or new depression in people. Working moms at home have to not only do their own work, but look after their kids schooling as well. People are gaining weight , drinking more, more domestic violence is happening and more depression is occurring.
Here are some strategies to help with stress and anxiety during this time:
1. Accept that some anxiety is normal. Try not to watch news all day. Limit your watching to once a day if possible. When you watch news it puts you into a hypervigilant state which sets off your nervous system and causes your fear and tension to escalate. Even though things are shifting rapidly, daily changes are not likely to affect how you should manage your risk.
2. Assess your personal risk by finding out the truth . Check out the World Health Organization, Health Canada, Ontario Ministry of Health.
3. Set an Intention to Unplug! Set aside some time each day to unplug from all electronics, computers, cell phones, tablets and social media outlets. Just breath and be! Try this link to do a calming chakra meditation: https://youtu.be/jeGT1VXwfx4
4. Stay in social contact. Have video coffee dates with family and friends. Stay connected to family and friends or your therapist who you trust in your life, who can help you calm down and who you can turn to for support. Avoid negative people who generally increase your anxiety.
5. We are all in social isolation so do some project you have been putting off. If you want to clean a room start with one table or desk so you don't get overwhelmed.
6. Get out into nature while self isolating. Trees emit a hormone that calm the trees next to it down. When we breath it in it also calms us down.
7. Play a game with your kids or partner while phones, tv, computers are all off. Take up a craft or paint. Read a book (not a scary, violent or suspenseful one)
8. Practice Relaxation and Calm. Try lying on the bed or couch and breathing into your belly. Count to four on the breath in, hold for the count of 4, breath out on the count of 4 and pause for the count of 4. Try meditation or Yoga . There are lots of internet meditation or yoga classes. Choose an activity that works for you. Lie down and listen to soothing music while you breath and look around at your surroundings or try just breathing and closing your eyes Try to decrease other stress in your life.
9. What if's?? You are resilient so be careful with the "What if's". Our stress and anxiety cause us to focus on the what if's and think about worst case scenarios. When we are stressed we overestimate how bad the situation is and underestimate how well we can cope. We are resilient and use coping skills and make decisions every day! Reach out to family, friends or colleagues or professionals.
10. Create a gratitude journal and everyday write down 5 things you are grateful for. This method has been clinically proven to cut depression in half when done long enough.
11. Be kind to yourself. We are all in this together ! Be gentle with yourself if you make a mistake, talk kindly to yourself, compliment yourself every day. Try not to put yourself down.
12. Get proper rest and sleep, avoid substance abuse including smoking and vaping, caffeine and limit alcohol. Also stay active. physical activity is a great way to reduce stress. If you are isolated at home use your stairs or follow an exercise video on YouTube.
13. Remember nothing lasts forever. People have lived through wars and plagues and have come out the other side. Tell yourself "this too shall pass".
14. Reframe this pandemic to look at the positive things that are coming out of it including: a rest from the business of life, a reset of your priorities, reconnection with family and friends, a pause in pollution and healing for the planet!