How To Handle Anxiety During COVID-19
First off, happy April and Easter! I hope everyone out there is staying safe and healthy.
We live in stressful times. Here in Ottawa, calls to the Distress Center have increased. People all around the world are struggling with anxiety/panic attacks during this pandemic, and it only seems to be growing.
For those of you who don't know, I've suffered with bad anxiety my whole life. When I was a child, I didn't know what it was because mental health wasn't taught in school. I thought there was something wrong with me (spoiler alert: there wasn't.) These were my symptoms, especially during a panic attack:
-Heart skipping beats/fluttering
-Shortness of breath/feeling like you're suffocating
-General sense of fear, panic, and uncertainty
-Numbness/tingling in feet, hands, arms, or legs
-Cramps, stomach pain
-Feeling too hot with a fever or too cold with the shivers
...And many more, depending on the person and severity. Everyone experiences anxiety differently, but it resembles much of a heart attack. (You won't die, though - that's how it differs from a heart attack.)
They worsened when I had to go to school, which is why I missed so much and eventually went into homeschooling. (Don't worry, I still graduated online -- at seventeen, earlier than my peers.)
I wasn't diagnosed with severe anxiety until I was 17/18, and things started making more sense. I'd be lying if I said this virus hadn't made things worse for me. Because I know people are suffering with it, some for the first time ever - and I've been to a lot of doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists over the years - I'd like to share how I handle anxiety.
(I'm in no way a mental health professional, nor do I claim to have all the answers/solutions to anxiety. I still struggle with it every day, but I wanted to share some tips and advice for newbies who have bad anxiety during the virus.)
1. Shut Off The Internet/TV News
Seriously, turn it off. It's okay if it's overwhelming you to log off Twitter and turn off the news on TV. The media is overflowing with reports of the Coronavirus to the point where it's worsening anxiety in everyone. It's healthy to disconnect.
While hard to do under quarantine, you can always do jumping jacks and other small exercises at home. I love Tai Chi, but Yoga and Pilates are good, too. I also like to exercise with the stairs in my house.
3. Get Fresh Air
Again, this might be hard to do under quarantine, but you're allowed to go outside - just keep your distance. Fresh air is healthy, and nature might make you feel better. I'm blessed to have a porch and a big backyard for some fresh air and privacy.
4. Distract Yourself
This is my favorite technique. Listen to music, read a book, write/do arts and crafts, cook/bake, watch a good TV show. Just keep your mind occupied. The more it is, the less time you have to think about the virus.
5. Take a Bath/Shower or Relax
Relaxing is so important, and a hot bath or shower might just be what you need. Get your favorite soap and stay in there as long as you need.
6. Take Deep Breaths
The more obvious choice, but it does help a little. I like to take 7 deep breaths in and 11 deep breaths out, especially during a bad panic attack. This is a helpful guide:
7. Call Friends/Family
Again, I'm lucky to live with my parents and I can see them every day. If you're stuck home alone in this quarantine, call/text/Facetime your friends and family. Don't be afraid to share your worries with them -- I'm sure they're experiencing the same anxiety.
8. Practice Meditation
I enjoy meditation which I use on YouTube. You can find a lot of great ones on there - even rain sounds, nature sounds, and more. I also like ASMR.
9. Take Medication If It Helps
I tried medication when I was first diagnosed and I slept for fourteen hours. (Not a fun day.) I believe it was an SSRI. I never liked medication - especially those with long side effects - but if it helps you, then take it. Start slow with small doses and be careful, and always do so under the care of a health professional.
10. Remember Things Will Get Better
Anxiety doesn't last forever. Nothing does - not even this virus. One day, we will be able to emerge from quarantine like a beautiful butterfly out of the cocoon and everything will be okay again. Until then, stay strong and keep positive.
Wishing the best for everyone,