COVID-19 has many people concerned and even panicking over what they believe is an uncertain future. We feel insecure about our place in the world and fearful for the lives of our loved ones. Concern is a natural response to the unknown. Panicking, on the other hand, is more extreme and can demand specialized attention. Our perspectives have shifted and our reaction to our new world can cause intense anxiety. Intense anxiety leads to panic attacks that can immobilize our lives. A shift in perspective is essential to move forward.
It is completely normal to feel anxious about the coronavirus. This isn’t the worst pandemic we’ve experienced, by far, but with the twenty-four-hour news cycle focusing on the worst cases, we can’t help but feel overwhelmed. Those of us who already suffer from anxiety and depression can start to spiral and get lost. We must have a plan to get through that time.
How Can You Tell If You Are Moving From Concern Into Panic-Mode?
The Washington Post describes the response to the coronavirus as a “line dividing a cautious and responsible reaction from a panicked, entirely self-protective and competitive response can be thin and not entirely rational”. Concern involves careful handwashing, social distancing, and sneezing into your elbow. Someone who is panicking may be hoarding, having anxiety attacks, and isolating themselves even from the telephone.
If you, or someone you know, are teetering towards the more severe side of the line, help may be warranted. Panic behaviors are symptoms of an underlying anxiety disorder and you, or your loved one, deserve relief from some of the most immobilizing indicators of the disease:
- restlessness and inability to relax
- excessive worry
- feelings of impending doom
- irrational fears
- avoidance of triggering situations
- panic attacks
Every single person is experiencing this virus in their way, through their own eyes, experiences, and expectations. When we hear that stopping the spread of this disease is up to us and “flattening the curve,” our worries become all-consuming. Our paranoia increases as our routines fluctuate unexpectedly and our depression rises. We find ourselves restless with all of this extra time that we would usually spend doing other things. Concern yourself with what you can control and not what you can’t.
The Circle Of Concern And Of Influence
A circle of concern and influence is a diagram the looks a little like a bullseye. A smaller circle lays inside a larger circle. The smaller circle is called the circle of influence and the larger circle is called the circle of concern. The larger circle includes issues that you may be concerned about but that you cannot control, such as the actions of other people, what’s on the news, and the coronavirus. The smaller circle of influence contains issues that you do have control over, such as your attitude, your actions, and your reactions to the issues in the circle of concern.
The entire premise is that you shouldn’t panic about what you don’t have control over. Save your worries for the things that you can control. The circles can shrink or get bigger based on where our attentions are. If we are too focused on the existential properties of the virus then we don’t have time to think about our behaviors. Some parts of our lives can then be neglected. The goal is to increase the size of the inner circle, the sphere of what we can control, to make our lives and the lives of our loved ones more positive. In turn, we feel more positive and in control of our lives and our futures.
How Can I Stay Calm During A Crisis?
Remember what you can control and what you can’t. There are many ways to alleviate your stress, anxiety, and feelings of panic during the pandemic. Schools are closing, businesses are shut down, and more and more people are being sent home to work. It is hard to deal with the stress that this virus has given us and we need to take measures to lessen the tension. Applied relaxation, meditation, and yoga can all be done at home and there are many videos online that can lead you through the exercises.
- limit your intake of the news and even reevaluate your media sources if you need
- take all necessary precautions but don’t overdo it and don’t make up your own
- try to maintain a steady routine and do your best to stick with it
- don’t isolate yourself completely
- limit your time on computers, cell phones, and social media
- always tell someone when you are feeling anxious and scared
You should be getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining your perspective. Talking to someone helps but becomes more complex while social distancing. Calling someone every day, just to chat and check in with them can make a world of difference. There are professionals ready to help you as well, and they can do so over the phone, from your own home.
With the eyes of the world on the developments surrounding the COVID 19 – coronavirus, our news feeds, social media feeds, and everyday conversations are focusing on the pandemic facing your communities. Each day more restrictions are imposed and closures are mandated for individuals, schools, and businesses across the nation. This coronavirus has disrupted the life of every individual in recent days and will likely continue for several more weeks. With campaigns encouraging social distancing and a break from your regular routine it is easy to become overwhelmed and stressed with all of the recent changes
What is Social Distancing?
Social distancing is an important measure and tool being implemented by the government and health officials during this health crisis to attempt to slow and reduce the spread of the coronavirus through your community. This measure helps not only lessen the number of people that contracts the disease but also helps the healthcare system to manage the impact more effectively rather than overloading it.
The Impacts of Social Distancing
The reality is that while social distancing is a much-needed step to protect the community during this dangerous threat from the coronavirus it can also present a number of struggles for individuals dealing with mental health issues or individuals who already live relatively solitary lives becoming more isolated.
It is critical to differentiate that social distance does not mean it is necessary to be socially isolated. Social distancing can make a positive impact for you and your community by reducing the transmission of the virus and potentially saving lives. However, social isolation by eliminating personal connections completely can be extremely detrimental to your own personal wellbeing and that of others.
Unfortunately, social distancing creates a challenge for individuals to remain connected and often brings to the forefront struggles with anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. In fact, studies have found a correlation between the role of social contacts and their ability to buffer the negative effects of stress. While no one can predict the overall impacts and effects to society that social distancing will have it is highly likely to affect everyone in some capacity and those suffering from mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression as well as those combating substance abuse will be more susceptible and vulnerable in this situation.
How to Stay Connected During This Time
While the risk of isolation from social distancing can cause individuals to face mounting pressures and emotions there are several ways to prepare and connect to the outside world in a way that can still be fulfilling and therapeutic.
Use Social Media the Right Way
Social media can be a bit of a double-edged sword in a situation such as this. It is a great tool to remain connected with families and friends but can also be a source of anxiety if used to discuss current events and raise negativity rather than focusing on doom, gloom, and arguments.
Facetime & Phone Calls
There is nothing quite like hearing the reassuring voice of a close friend, mentor, or family member. Do not underestimate the power of a simple phone call to check up on another and have a quick chat. If you are missing the face to face interaction consider using your video messaging capabilities through your phone, Facebook, or Whatsapp.
Join a Virtual Session
Are you missing out on your exercise classes, meetings, or other activities? Through this crisis organizations and businesses have quickly adapted their business structures and are offering their clients and customers virtual options for exercise classes, therapy sessions, hobby-related meetings, and conferences. Contact your providers and see what options they have available for you to participate from home during this time.
Other Considerations to Make During Social Distancing
Maintaining a meaningful connection with your friends and family is critical during this difficult and uncertain time for your mental and physical wellbeing. In addition to incorporating the methods mentioned above to keep in touch with your contacts, it is also important to establish a productive routine during these social distancing measures even if you are stuck at home.
Find a Purpose
If you are a helper and doer at heart try to find outlets to become a valuable resource in your community from your home. You may be able to offer your assistance to organizations or local businesses that may be of need in providing essential services to the population.
Being home all day can lead to bored eating and excess consumption of processed foods. Try to maintain a healthy and nutritious diet that will leave you feeling your body at its best.
Sleep – It is easy to lose track of time and a schedule when you have nowhere to be, but establishing and following a healthy sleep schedule is important for your mental and physical wellness. Ensure you are getting a sufficient amount of restful sleep each night to tackle each day with a rested and clear mind.
Practice Your Skills
Take this unprecedented moment to focus on your favorite hobbies or develop your skills and if you do not have a hobby now is a great time to explore some options to keep your mind and body active and occupied. Whether it be painting, knitting, reading a book, a DIY project, or a new language; take advantage of all of this free time to better yourself and enjoy some of the simpler things in life.
One of the best tools you can use to keep your mind healthy is to keep your body moving and strong. If you have a backyard or patio, go outside to get some sun and maybe a workout or yoga session. If you are not ill, go for a long walk or hike to enjoy some fresh air while getting some exercise.
Being proactive about social distancing and knowing what to expect will help you through this time in a positive and productive manner. Look forward to each day as an opportunity to learn something new and accomplish a new goal.