Managing Anxiety and Stress During COVID-19
- March 27, 2020
by Brent Diers, LCSW
LCFS Director of Clinical Services
Safety is first! While the restrictions related to social distancing can be a great source of anxiety and stress, we must begin by understanding that these are actions each of us is involved in that promote our physical safety. In the hierarchy of human needs, physical safety must be attended to before all else and by practicing social distancing we are taking action that supports safety. Being knowledgeable of CDC guidelines and Illinois state directives, knowing why they are in place and adhering to expectations, gives us a beginning sense of having some control and keeps us safe. You will probably need to make some difficult decisions during this time; rely on the advice of our health officials for guidance.
Stay informed, but don’t get too caught up in media coverage. There is a fascination with the barrage of information we get on the breadth of impact of this global phenomenon than can lead to an intense engagement with media sources. The consequence of this overload can be a distorted perspective on what is happening in the world, leading to feelings of dread and anxiety. Limit your engagement with media sources to getting the information you and your family need to be safe.
Structure your environment. We rely on work and school to structure our days, establishing schedules for us around when we eat, sleep and play. As social distancing keeps us in our homes, we lose these external structures and need to establish our own schedules and routines to replace them; the absence of a structured environment can leave us without the tools to be productive and purposive.
Be healthy. Our physical health has a profound effect on our feeling of well-being. This is actually a great opportunity to get daily physical exercise and to eat a healthy diet; you may never have fewer barriers to implementing your strategies to make these happen.
Acknowledge the impact of this change on your well-being and talk about it.
Stay connected. Social distancing shouldn’t mean social isolation. Prioritize staying in touch with others. The internet provides many opportunities to connect through social media and other methods. This is especially important for those who are living alone in this time; find channels to connect on a regular basis with important people in your life.
Maintain some sense of future orientation. In these uncertain times, we don’t know when or if things will return to how they were. We may have had to cancel vacation plans or appointments. We don’t know when school and work will be beginning again. While it may be inappropriate at this time to make significant long-term plans, make an effort to continue to make short-term plans. What are you planning for tomorrow, for the weekend? A sense of future orientation instills hope in us and generates a heightened sense of purpose.
If you have a pre-existing condition related to anxiety or depression, this will probably be a particularly vulnerable time for you. If you have a mental health provider, social distancing should not prevent you from accessing needed support. Most providers have established some type of telehealth strategy to connect virtually during this time.