Now offering a free group for anyone needing support during this time of "social distancing" during the Coronavirus Pandemic. It is critical that we remain physically apart from each other as much as we can right now in order to flatten the curve and protect the most vulnerable and elderly among us. But that doesn't mean that need need to isolate ourselves emotionally.
These are challenging, scary and unprecedented times. Sometimes it can help to just talk it out, realize that we are not alone, that what we are feeling and experience is normal and very similar to what other people are going through.
If you would like to participate in a small group for additional support, please email, or give us a call so we can get you signed up.
Strategies to reduce anxiety during Covid-19 Outbreak
1. Limit screen time: when you limit your screen time your mind gets a break and you have a chance to think about and do something else unrelated to the virus. You might consider turning your phone off or giving it to a loved one for a pre-set period of time. Can you limit scrolling to a half hour in the morning and a half hour at night for at least one day? Can you do that for more than one day in a row? Limiting screen time, even for just an hour or two allows us to focus on other happier and more productive things.
2. Sleep Hygiene: It is important to be well rested. For some, this can be a challenge, especially when faced with the increasing anxiety of this virus outbreak and potential for economic downturn. Getting enough rest is critical for boosting our immune system and simultaneously strengthening our mental health. Do you find that you can't turn off your mind once you lay down to sleep? Make sure you are going to bed at the same time each night. Turn off all screens at least one hour, preferably two, prior to going to bed. Deliberately think about things that keep your thoughts away from disaster. Plan a vacation, figure out how to spend the money you win in the multi-million dollar lottery jackpot, imagine what your children are doing in their careers when they grow up or any other topic that you find enjoyable thinking about. The point is not to tell yourself you shouldn't be thinking about current events. That is like trying not to think about a pink elephant in the room. Instead, let your mind free associate on a topic that you find interesting and enjoyable as you are drifting off to sleep.
3. Get moving: The weather is very nice in Virginia right now. Get outside. Breathe in some of that fresh springtime air. Take a walk. You can maintain social distancing and still get out of the house. Is there a new trail somewhere nearby that can simultaneously keep you away from others while giving you new experience? Research has shown that fresh air and sunshine is a natural disinfectant in pandemics that have occurred in the past. Get your Vitamin D.
4. Be aware of your catastrophic thinking: are you spending time creating "what if" scenarios in your mind? How much of has this type of thinking taken over? These are scary times and being scared can sometimes save your life. That is why we are social distancing. But if you have prepared for this as best you can, mentally re-creating worst case scenarios is not helpful and tends to be a mental cycle that can become difficult to get yourself out of. If you find yourself experiencing this, please see steps 1 thru 3.
5. Be grateful: see if you can develop a list of the things that you have to be grateful for. Perhaps the youth and vitality of your children? That this is not a mass extinction event? Use the things you feel grateful for to intentionally combat that catastrophic thinking you may be experiencing and to balance out those worst case scenarios driving up your fear and anxiety. Sometimes thinking is like a muscle. You must make a decision to change it by actively and intentionally exercising.
6. Do more of what makes you happy: See if you can identify a list of things that make you happy. Is it finally catching up on something on your to-do list? Is it returning to activities you once enjoyed before life got so hectic? Is it having quality conversations with someone you love or catching up with old friends? Whatever those things are, see if you can identify them and spend time doing them each day.
7. Connect: There are many options to virtually connect with others right now whether it be through Netflix Party, a video conference with Zoom or calling long-distance relatives that you haven't spoken to in a few years. Connection and relationships is the antidote to anxiety and isolation.
8. Try something new: There are many opportunities right now to participate in something for free. Take an online class, watch an art demonstration, read a new book, listen to some new music. Go an an internet exploration of new music and the arts. Take a virtual trip of a museum you have never been to. Try a new recipe. Try a new look. Re-arrange the furniture. Try developing a new hobby.
9. Coping Skills: think back to a time in your life when you have successfully weathered a storm. What got you through? How hard was it? Probably pretty tough. What strategies did you use then? What are your "go-to" coping skills? See if you can identify exactly what it was that helped you through that difficult time and compare it to what is possible for you to do right now. Sometimes realizing that we have already been through very difficult times that we navigated successfully can give us the confidence to get through what we are dealing with right now.
10. When all else fails: perhaps you have struggled with your mental health even prior to Covid-19 and this has exacerbated pre-existing symptoms of depression and anxiety. If you are having difficulty functioning day to day you may need to seek some individual counseling. Not forever, but to help get you through this stressful event without becoming deeply debilitated. Asking for help is perfectly acceptable. Most individuals are struggling right now to cope with what we are facing. Most outpatient therapists are moving their practices to tele-health. If you are already in therapy, see if your appointments can continue in this way. If you don't have a therapist, book an online appointment. Frequently, all it takes is just a few sessions to get you back on the road to wellness.