MyStrength partners with millions of healthcare companies worldwide and offers evidence-based models that are tailored to the individual for improving overall well-being, health, and resiliency. Recently, I received the Provider Connect Newsletter that offered a useful tip for managing COVID19 anxiety: A worry journal.
Before deciding that “journaling isn’t for me,” visit the link below and answer the questions about fears, concerns, and worries about the COVID19 pandemic. What do you have to lose?
As the pandemic crisis continues, many of our customers and clients are facing unprecedented worry. In these circumstances, it’s common for people to report short attention spans, exhaustion, and panicky or anxious thoughts. Many of us have realistic and invasive worries about shortages, family management, quarantine, finances, and more.
Sadly, we can’t erase these worries or solve global problems on our own. Still, we can offer tools to help those we serve to manage worries in productive ways. The simple act of taking pen to paper (or fingers to computer keys) can be a productive and freeing first step.
Begin the activity: https://app.mystrength.com/act/whats_changed_managing_worry_during_covid19/intro
As we practice social distancing, I am reminded of the wisdom that a Vietnam veteran shared with me recently. "There's a reason that things like this happen. We have to look for the good in all this. Maybe its God's way of telling us to slow down and focus on what's most important in our lives." In other words, we spend so much time working and being preoccupied with money and making a name for ourselves, that we miss what's right in front of us: our relationships.
The article below, which is written by Suzanne Kane and published by PsychCentral, really illustrates the importance of self-reflection in terms of your identity, passions, interests/hobbies, and your relationship to your self and others.
Learning to Quickly Adapt:
There is no doubt that what America and the rest of the world is experiencing is a reality that no one could have anticipated. Despite the fact that some in the medical community and those who’ve extensively researched viruses and past pandemics provided warnings of collective ill-preparedness for any pandemic of the magnitude of COVID-19, most people went about their lives unconcerned about potential catastrophic and widespread illness and death.
Now, however, since there is a new reality forcing a reassessment of how to live everyday life while maintaining social distancing, businesses, factories and public and private places closed, we’re learning to quickly adapt. Long-held habits changed overnight. Commutes evaporated, replaced by the recommendation to stay in place.
Rediscovering Our Humanity:
While there are instances of hoarding, selfishness, greed and isolated crime, most people in America are united in a common bond: We are facing the pandemic, doing what we must to survive, and pledging to work tirelessly to find solutions to universally-experienced problems. In the process, we’re rediscovering our humanity.
Adopting Technology at an Accelerated Rate:
From online business meetings to being able to connect in-person and live with family members, loved ones and friends, we’re adopting technology at an accelerated rate. Social media networks, long a technological tool for connection, are even more important during a time when people are inside for weeks at a time. Mobile and online ordering for curbside pickup of staples, food, meals and medicines is rapidly becoming the go-to way for Americans to conveniently and safely get what they need on an immediate basis. There’s a measure of confidence in adopting technology for these purposes, since it means we’re not going to starve, run out of toilet paper, or much-needed medicine. Telehealth is also ramping up, as medical practitioners and patients connect via secure and HIPAA-compliant portals to ensure necessary medical and mental health needs are professionally addressed.
Discovering We are Resilient:
No one knows when the threat of the COVID-19 virus will subside, or if it will resurface again, perhaps seasonally, or undergo mutations that could be even more deadly. There is an unwavering focus on developing effective treatment medications and vaccines to combat coronavirus. Dealing with such uncertainty calls into question our personal and collective ability to bounce back. Yet, in the face of the crisis, we have discovered just how resilient we are. We have strengths we took for granted, and courage that we didn’t know we possessed. Recognize that resilience is a strength that can be cultivated, and can then serve as a reservoir to utilize as needed.
Repurposing factories, tools and processes to meet urgent medical needs:
From the automakers to plastics-makers to tobacco companies and virtually every type of business with machinery, equipment, and the processes and know-how to jumpstart an entirely new model, we’re repurposing assembly lines, retooling equipment and revamping processes to meet the country’s most urgent medical needs. These include making ventilators, N95 and surgical masks, gowns, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPEs) so desperately needed by front-line medical personnel, first responders, police officers, and others serving a citizenry affected with coronavirus.
Becoming More Generous:
Parents raising their children at home during this challenging time can impart invaluable lessons about the importance of generosity by serving as examples. Put together shelf-stable items such as canned goods, flour and baking items, spices, condiments, packaged milk and other staples and deliver them to the doorstep of someone who’s unable to get out and shop, or may be ill, or is scrimping just to buy food. Americans are also showing their increasing generosity by donating money online, funding critical resources for disadvantaged individuals. In times of calamities and natural disasters, people in the United States have always stepped up to the challenge, yet the COVID-19 pandemic is proving just how generous this nation’s inhabitants can be.
Realizing Life Is Precious
A recent story about a couple married 51 years, contracted the coronavirus and died within minutes of each other showcases how quickly life can be snuffed out. The two were in good health until the husband, aged 74, came down with a cough, developed breathing problems and had to be hospitalized, diagnosed with COVID-19 and was intubated. His wife, aged 72, wracked by stress, became ill and her condition progressively worsened. When doctors told their son his dad didn’t have long to live, he took his mother to the hospital where she was tested, proved positive for coronavirus, and put the couple together in the same hospital room. She died within six minutes of her husband.
No matter how well you feel at the moment, follow CDC recommendations on the COVID-19 virus to take precautions and stay home, only venturing out with proper face mask, gloves, maintaining the minimum social distancing guidelines. Send one person to the store for food, instead of shopping together. The least contact with others outside the home as possible is the best practice.
While no one knows how long they’ll live, everyone can recognize how precious life is — every second of it.
Living in the Moment:
Now, more than ever, we’re keenly aware that this moment is what we have. This is what is real, the here and now. There’s less time spent dwelling on the past and no reason to engage in endless self-berating, constantly recycling negative and painful memories. We’re finding constructive things to do, making plans and encouraging each other to enjoy today.
Reconnecting with Family and Loved Ones:
Granted, living in close proximity indoors takes its toll and familial arguments are unavoidable at times. Yet, even with the fact that staying inside is somewhat claustrophobic and emotions can be overwhelming in some instances, we’ve found ways to reconnect with family and loved ones — even those living in the same house. There’s more time to talk with each other at the kitchen table, while doing chores in the yard and around the house, helping each other prepare meals, clean up, watch favorite shows and movies on TV. Communicating with family and loved ones honestly and lovingly at this time is more important than ever. For those suffering with anxiety and depression, providing reassurance and support is crucial. Indeed, coping with anxiety now demands attention. Ensuring uninterrupted contact with that person’s therapist via phone, telehealth visits, email, instant messaging is another way to show your love and support.
Things that once were annoying and stress-producing may now seem largely irrelevant. Personal peeves about a co-worker’s behavior or workplace habits are perhaps a distant memory. What siblings and family members argued about prior to COVID-19 have little bearing on what everyone is going through now. In essence, all Americans are learning perspective, as what is really important becomes abundantly clear: each other.
Existential philosophers and psychotherapist recognize that anxiety is a fundamental aspect of the human condition. Despite its physical and emotional discomfort, anxiety should not be avoided but rather understood within its inter- and intrapersonal context. In short, anxiety informs us of our relationship to self, others, and the external world. Rather than focus on the removal of anxiety, it would be advantageous to examine the influential forces beneath our anxiety: What is anxiety trying to tell me? What has changed in my life? What remains unsettled (as a result of this change)? What have I lost? How much control do I really possess?
In our attempts to understand COVID19 (and navigate the challenges and restrictions that it has imposed on our life), we are grappling with the conflict between “what we [dont’] know and what we feel.” While this article may not specifically address existentialism, it is nevertheless an article that we can all relate to. I hope that this provides you with more insight into anxiety.
The pandemic that we are experiencing has led to thoughts and concerns that most of us have never faced. And while this article isn’t designed to deal with coronavirus specifically, it’s emergence and the impact on our lives has caused many of us to struggle with anxiety and stress that conflict with our desire to remain calm and rational. In fact, this two-brained feeling and the ability to control our thoughts and reactions is a very real struggle for many. You just have to look at the current state of the toilet paper isle to see the evidence of that.
Balancing Anxiety & Logic:
Anxiety is a response to challenging or frightening situations that are hard sometimes to define or that we’re anticipating. It can also arise from our subconscious when triggered and can be hard to identify. A certain amount of anxiety is actually useful in helping us prepare for upcoming events. Consider how you feel when you have a big test or presentation coming up. Anxiety can create a measure of pressure that pushes us to focus and prepare. Unfortunately, some of us allow anxiety to become a ruling factor in our lives. It then becomes hard to control and can lead to compounding health problems like depression.
Those of us who tend toward the more logical side of things may consider too much anxiety over circumstances beyond our control as an irrational response. But what happens when the anxiety stops seeming irrational? And when there’s very little you can do to plan or prepare in anticipation of what’s to come? For the test or presentation, you have some control, as you can study or practice. For other situations, however, there’s very little that can be done ahead of time.
With what feels like very little warning, we have all be thrown into a new reality. We’ve seen movies or read novels that portray things like we’re experiencing, but the idea that it could really happen seemed like a very remote possibility to most of us. The fact that we’re now living it has left many of us with a surreal feeling and unsure of what to do with our concerns and how we should view the world and our collective future. The anticipation of an uncertain outcome and future can create an untenable level of anxiety for many.
And there’s a dichotomy created when you wake in the morning and the sun’s shining, you can still have your coffee, go outside, go to the grocery store, and even get a drive through burger — everything seems somewhat normal and okay. In these moments you might forget to worry and feel anxious.
Then you remember, see the news, or any other reminder and your brain flips back into anxiety mode.
I have spoken to more and more people who are feeling overwhelmed by these conflicting feelings. Each morning they want to start their day and feel normal and they forget to worry — then they remember, then they forget, and on it goes. These oscillating emotions take their toll psychologically, and even physically, too.
Effects of This Uncommon Anxiety:
I refer to this as uncommon anxiety not because anxiety itself is uncommon, but because anxiety this widespread and at this level is uncommon. Many right now find themselves wrestling with not only anxiety, but also with a type of guilt. This guilt comes from feeling helpless and out of control. As humans we feel the need to prepare, help, fix, or plan, and when we can’t many of us feel guilt. It’s also not uncommon to experience guilt over feeling normal or happy or healthy when there’s something looming over us that’s worrisome. We can actually feel bad about not feeling worried enough. And so the switch flips again. Now you’re not only worried about what’s happening, but you’re worried about not taking it seriously enough and feeling guilty about not doing enough to help. And although these are normal feelings, none are healthy or helpful.
Physically speaking these levels of stress and anxiety can cause a rise in blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones. These feelings can also spur us into unhealthy methods of coping, like stress eating, drinking, or self-medicating. These behaviors won’t help and will ultimately have detrimental results.
So, what can you do to reconcile this dual-brained feeling?
Coping with Uncommon Anxiety:
The first thing to realize is that you are far from alone. Anxiety and stress can be very isolating. Second, understand that what you are feeling is a normal response to a very abnormal situation, so there’s nothing wrong with you. That being said, there are a few things that you can be doing to keep yourself healthy and get through this in an emotionally and psychologically stable way.
While there is so much information on the internet about the Coronavirus (COVID-19), I always like to provide my clients with reliable and accurate information taken from reputable websites. The Center for Disease and Control (CDC) has provided us with useful information on stress management. This information pertains not only to adults, but also parents, caregivers, healthcare providers, first responders, and those most at risk of contracting COVID-19. Here are some general guidelines for us to remember while managing our stress levels. Please know that if any of these stress symptoms interfere with your quality of life, relationships, work, or sleep you should consider contacting your doctor or a mental health professional.
Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situationsHow you respond to the outbreak can depend on your background, the things that make you different from other people, and the community you live in.
People who may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis include
Ways to cope with stress
Know the facts to help reduce stressSharing the facts about COVID-19. Understanding the risk to yourself and people you care about can make an outbreak less stressful. When you share accurate information about COVID-19, you can help make people feel less stressed and make a connection with them.
Take care of your mental health. Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row. People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms. Additional information can be found at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Disaster Preparednessexternal icon page.
Children and teens react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. Parents can be more reassuring to others around them, especially children, if they are better prepared. Watch for behavior changes in your child. Not all children and teens respond to stress in the same way.
Some common changes to watch for include:
Ways to support your child:
Related: Caring for Children and Helping Children Cope
For people at higher risk for serious illness:
People at higher risk for severe illness, such as older adults, and people with underlying health conditions are also at increased risk of stress due to COVID-19. Special considerations include:
Common reactions to COVID-19
Support your loved ones:
Check in with your loved ones often. Virtual communication can help you and your loved ones feel less lonely and isolated. Consider connecting with loved ones by:
Help keep your loved ones safe.
Take care of your own emotional health.
Caring for a loved one can take an emotional toll, especially during an outbreak like COVID-19. There are ways to support yourself. Stay home if you are sick. Do not visit family or friends who are at greater risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Use virtual communication to keep in touch to support your loved one and keep them safe.
What health care providers can do:
What communities can do:
Community preparedness planning for COVID-19 should include older adults and people with disabilities, and the organizations that support them in their communities, to ensure their needs are taken into consideration.
For people coming out of quarantine:
It can be stressful to be separated from others if a healthcare provider thinks you may have been exposed to COVID-19, even if you do not get sick. Everyone feels differently after coming out of quarantine.
Emotional reactions to coming out of quarantine may include:
Responding to COVID-19 can take an emotional toll on you, and you may experience secondary traumatic stress. Secondary traumatic stress is stress reactions and symptoms resulting from exposure to another individual’s traumatic experiences, rather than from exposure directly to a traumatic event.
There are things you can do to reduce secondary traumatic stress reactions:
Get more information about stress management for first responders from the Disaster Technical Assistance Centerexternal icon (SAMHSA).
Below is an article from Edie Weinstein, MSW published on PsychCentral that addresses the recent dilemma of being isolated and alone—a situation that we are all currently in as we adjust to a new kind of “normal.” This article has some useful coping strategies for managing the isolation, loneliness, and boredom. I hope that you enjoy....
”We are all in this together: Facing the Coronavirus”
I am writing this article from bed, listening to the sweet sounds of Sleepy Hollow on University of Pennsylvania station, WXPN, which includes easing into the day music that is a regular part of my Saturday morning. I plan to remain at home, not interacting physically with other human beings, but certainly available via phone or cyberspace. Thankfully, I am showing no symptoms of COVID-19, but I am monitoring closely, since I was in the hospital three timesin the past month for cardiac and kidney stone related issues which puts me in a high-risk group, along with being part of the over-60 crowd.
Except for going to work as a therapist, the only people I see regularly are my son, daughter-in-law and infant grandson who live nearby. I help take care of the wee one who is learning to explore the world with all of his senses, touching his face and putting his fingers in his mouth. What a time to for him to have gotten born, in the midst of so much crisis and chaos in the world. My intention is to do what I can to make it a safer and healthier place for him and all of the children.
While I can’t totally claim to be self-quarantining, I am following recommended protocol from the CDCand staying home when I can. I have not gathered with friends as I do regularly and cancelled two workshops I was to facilitate and one party I had planned to host. I have declined invitations to get together and am heartened to see that people are taking seriously, the need for social physical distance. As a consummate hugger, it has been challenging to be hands off. Instead, I offer virtual hugs, wrapping my arms around myself as a proxy. No germs shared that way. The paradox is that in the midst of world events, beyond the health crisis, we need connection with each other more than ever.
Since the Coronavirus erupted, many of my clients have been in hypervigilant crisis mode which is understandable. My job, even while harboring my own brewing nervousness, is to help them to regain stability. I remind them to use the anxietyreducing strategies they already know and increase the frequency. I suggest that they read/watch/listen to reputable sources, not panic inducing pieces. I recommend that they follow the hygiene protocol including coughing or sneezing into their elbows, steering clear of anyone with the disease, if possible, handwashing thoroughly and using hand sanitizer when a sink and soap are not available. Humor and handwashing go “hand in hand” with ideas about songs to singwhen they want to be sure they are cleansing long enough. In our office are posters related to the precautions we are taking to create safety. On our desks (they have always been there) are bottles of hand sanitizer. I spray the couch with Lysol and wipe down surfaces.
Although I wash my hands scrupulously anyway, having techniques reinforced when working in an acute care psychiatric hospital, I am even more conscientious. I imagine you have seen memes about handwashing; a memorable one tells us to wash our hands as if we had just eaten jalapeno peppers and about to put in contact lenses. My routine is to wash them as thoroughly as if I was about to feed my grandson.
Ideas to wend your way through this crisis:
•Call friends (Facetime, Skype and Zoom are the next best thing to being there).
•Interact on social media and via email.
•Send letters and cards.
•Use affirmations that reinforce your health. “I am healed, whole and healthy.” “Wellness is my birthright.” “I am resilient and can sustain health.” Create your own.
•Write in your journal.
•Make a gratitude list.
•Watch to healing videos.
•Sing along with tunes that affirm health, like “Healed Whole and Healthy” by Karen Drucker.
•Play the kinds of games with your children and grandchildren that you loved as a child. Monopoly, pick up sticks, jacks, marbles, cards and checkers beat electronics hands down.
•CreateVision boardswith imagery that highlight health and wellbeing.
•Be compassionate with yourself and others in the midst of this time.
•Know that it will eventually subside (one hallmark of anxiety is the belief that there will be no relief). If we know that there is an end point in sight, stressors are easier to handle.
•Listen to this NPR podcast of Radio Times called Coping With Coronavirus Anxietythat contains useful information to help ride the tide.
•Check on health compromised neighbors and family members.
•If you are well, run errands for those who can’t do so for themselves.
•Don’t hoard-shop. Panic buying will prevent those who need staple items to purchase them.
•Watch fun, light-hearted movies, videos and television shows.
•UseLaughter Yogaas a tool to boost your immune system and provide mood stabilization.
•Contact friends or family you haven’t spoken with in a while.
•Takevirtual toursof works of art.
•Re-decorate your space.
•Clean and purge your home, car or office.
•Get outside in nature when you can. Sunshine is a mood lifter.
•Exercise as able. Walk, bicycle, run, dance, practice yoga.
•Cook and bake, with appropriate handwashing first, of course.
•Support local businesses, since they may be strongly impacted.
•Join in community with songas these folks didin Italy.
•Attend spiritual services on-line as many faith communities are offering them.
•Attend 12-step meetings on-line.
•Eatnourishing mealsthat boost your immune system.
•Greet people with elbow bumps, air hugs, virtual hugs, foot taps, bows, eye contact, winks, smiles, waves.
We humans are a resilient bunch and throughout history have survived war, famine, epidemics, trauma and tragedy of all sorts. If there are takeaway lessons from this challenge they are that disease knows no international boundaries, love is stronger than fear, a “we and not just me” attitude serves everyone, and we need each other to survive.
The term COVID-19 has now become a household name, suggesting that even little children have become familiar with the virus and the importance of hand washing and the practice of social distancing. While we do need to be aware and cautious of the virus, we need not live in (constant) fear. As human beings, we fear that which we do not understand (i.e., the unknown). The more we learn about COVID19 the better we can prepare and reduce the risk of exposure. The Center for Disease and Control (CDC) has a vast array of useful information for both adults and children. If you haven't visited their website, I strongly encourage you to get the latest news and updates to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Here you can read the latest information about our practice.