05 Apr Anxiety and the COVID-19 pandemic
Due to COVID-19, large portions of the country are mandating social distancing, and a “Shelter in Place” order, which may exact a physical toll on our brain’s circuitry, triggering higher blood pressure and heart rates, stress hormones and inflammation, as well as anxiety and depression. New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo acknowledged, the “truly significant” psychological and social stresses of our uncertain times “People are struggling with the emotions as much as they are struggling with the economics,” he said.
He appealed to psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists willing to volunteer to contact the state to help provide mental-health assistance for people who are anxious, depressed and feel isolated.
Anxiety can be as contagious as the coronavirus, and psychological states such as loneliness spreads throughout populations like New York, like a virus. We need, all of us, to work mindfully on the physiology of fear unprecedented in American history, during which much of the country has closed down, the economy has ground to a halt and millions have been told to stay home. Normal life has been suspended. Phobias can be activated whether by repetitive thought, overwhelming anxiety, or plain mind-numbing fear.
Sure, it all feels eerie and scary. There is so much information coming through our news reports. What to believe? Your mind may be swinging backwards and forwards. When you finally decided that this is something very serious, further psychological states may occur in which all the ways you had unsuccessfully sought to deal with problems may no longer work and overwhelming fear assails.
A few tools to help with the anxiety:
- Keep as many of your daily routines in place as possible.
- Start a record of what you are grateful for and add to the journal every day.
- Do not cut down on your sleep during these anxious times. Attempt to strive for 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
- Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs.
- Move into a more balanced and healthier diet and drink lots of water.
- Keep abreast and informed of the news but not in an obsessive way.
- Meditate-There are many good apps on your phone or listen to YouTube meditation videos on your television to reduce the stress.
- Look for breathing exercises online to relax.
- Prayer also helps to reduce your stress level if that is part of your spiritual foundation.
- Stay connected to family, friends, coworkers, faith mentor or therapist to reduce the feelings from the social isolation. Use the old fashion phone to connect.
- Create a peaceful home environment through candles, soft music, aromatherapy and order.
- Practice good hygiene on your hands and overall body and be conscious of face touching.
- Just because you are home it does not mean you lounge all day in your pajamas. Get up early, shower and dress in comfortable casual clothes.
- While out keep a healthy distance of 6’ from each other.
- The gyms are closed but you can still exercise. Walking is a beautiful way to exercise. There are also ways to practice mindful walking that are good feeling boosters.
Anxiety also has a way of affecting our immune system.
“When we’re stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced. That is why we are more susceptible to infections. The stress hormone corticosteroid can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system (e.g. lowers the number of lymphocytes).” Saul McLeod
Anxiety is always about the future, not the present. What’s happening now is the virus presents itself as some kind of perceived catastrophe or horror, and the other element on us, very often inappropriately, is to fight-or-flee. But where do we flee, and how do we fight something we do not know much about at this time?
Work on trying to remain calm, to center oneself and to control things that you have control over.
It is time to be extra diligent in taking care of oneself.