With the coronavirus on everyone’s minds, social media pages, and news channels, it’s a scary world out there.
“Should I buy more toilet paper?”
“Is this runny nose a symptom?”
“What if my kids’ school closes?”
“How will I pay my bills if I can’t work or run out of sick days?”
Many of us are feeling anxious and unclear about what the coronavirus may mean for our health, our loved ones, and our finances. Some are taking to stocking up on paper goods, while others post silly memes to mock them in an attempt to bring some balance. Plenty are avoiding the news all-together.
Though having anxiety about the coronavirus does not necessarily mean having an anxiety disorder, we can use some of the same lessons we learn from managing anxiety to manage our corona-stress.
Neither panic nor avoidance will make your stress go away.
When we avoid something stressful, it never really goes away, it simply gets pushed down. Then, when we are most tired, irritable, or even hungry, it pops back up as anger, panic, stomach pain, sleep problems, etc. Panic and avoidance are actually two sides of the same coin.
Your anxiety is there for a reason
Your body and brain were made to help you avoid bad things happening! If you see a wild bear coming toward you, and your brain and body do not become afraid or anxious, you don’t run away in time! Anxiety is meant to help you see possible threats in order to do something about them.
So what should I do about it?
As difficult as it may be, we all have to stay aware of what is going on in our communities. That doesn’t mean reading every story about it online or following how they handle it in Italy – this means knowing what is happening in your community now, and any CDC recommendations or governmental regulations for your area. Get educated about how the virus works, from reputable specialists. Start with the CDC Website and start one article at a time, making sure to take breaks in between if you start to feel overwhelmed. It can be tempting when we start to read every article and go down every rabbit hole, but try to limit yourself to just what you need to know to be safe.
Ok, I’m educated and prepared – what now?
It is in times when we do not know the outcome, and in which the things we care about feel at risk, that we must turn toward our values and our loved ones. Pick one of these things you can do today:
- Spend time with your family
- Call an elderly family member
- Play a game with your kids
- Pray, meditate, or engage in another spiritual practice, if that is comfortable for you
- Be a little kinder to your neighbor
- Do the things that make you feel like your best self
If you find that your stress is overwhelming you, reach out for support to a loved one or consider talking to a therapist. We’re all in this together – let this be a time where we lean into what matters.