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How Do I Manage Pandemic Anxiety?

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Managing Pandemic Anxiety

To say we are living in an uncertain and quickly changing time right now is an understatement. Feelings of anxiety and fear of the unknown can throw the calmest and most grounded among us into an all-out emotional tailspin.  And that’s okay. We are in unchartered territory and if you feel overwhelmed and stressed right now most assuredly you are not alone. Like any source of stress that life inevitably brings, it’s how we respond to that stress that matters. And this is some Big Stress and new territory for all of us so it’s going to take an adjustment. No doubt this pandemic situation can feel surreal and scary, but with time I have no doubt we will come out collectively stronger and more united and connected than before.

And forever changed. Change requires a loss of some kind. For many of us, it’s a loss of our normal daily or weekly routines. Personally, I miss my beach walks, joining my running group on Saturday’s, and seeing my fellow gym members where I used to work out before the gyms were asked to close. And I realize these are minor inconveniences. Many people are struggling to meet their fundamental needs as they grapple with being laid off, finding money for food, or navigating working without childcare. We are all affected in some way and each person’s situation is unique. Some are thrust into survival mode due to circumstances and others are living in fear of the ‘what-ifs’ (what if I get sick, or what if my mother, father, child, sister, spouse become ill – THEN WHAT?). Fear and anxiety do a great job of keeping us in survival mode. Some feel safer if they catastrophize and ruminate on the worst-case scenario so that they are mentally prepared. But – at what cost?

So I ask you: How are you managing your stress during this time? What is your anxiety level most days? How are you prioritizing your self-care?  What are your primary go-to’s for stress management? Don’t let fear and anxiety paralyze you when it comes to your overall health and self-care. Properly nourishing and moving our bodies is key, as well as staying connected to others, but here are three additional tips for better managing pandemic anxiety.

  1. Limit news exposure. It’s important to stay informed but reading or listening to every pandemic update will only add to your stress, fear and anxiety. I’m guilty myself, there are articles and stories and updates galore, not to mention the articles friends’ text me (with good intent).  Too much pandemic information is not a good thing. Assess if you need to create some boundaries around how much you listen to, watch, read news, and receive information from others related to the pandemic. This is especially important right before bed. We want to calm – not stress out – the body and mind before sleep.
  • Seek out what makes you laugh. We have a lot of doom and gloom coming at us, so make sure you are also allowing in what makes you laugh. Talk with a good friend, or watch hilarious videos or comedians on YouTube. You can’t be stressed out and be laughing at the same time – just sayin’. At the least, seek out what you enjoy and find pleasurable from the inside-out. Make a point of prioritizing what brings you joy. I get that those options may have become more limited lately – but experiment and return to what you used to enjoy doing but maybe didn’t have time for anymore. A little source of laughter can go a long way in taking the edge off of stress in a healthy way.
  • Practice gratitude. Wait! Don’t stop reading, I’m not being ‘woo-woo’ here. Research

on a gratitude practice shows that when we acknowledge the good stuff we feel happier. We even begin to notice more of the ‘good stuff’ compared to the ‘bad stuff’ even if our life circumstances haven’t changed much. Here are a couple practices you can do:

  • 3 Things Practice – Journal three things that you are grateful for at the end of your day. What inspired you or made you smile? What do you appreciate? Keep a journal on your nightstand to help remind you to practice.  
  • Write a Thank You note – write, email or text a ‘thank you’ note to a family member, friend, colleague, helper, anyone who has made a difference in your life or since this pandemic entered the scene. Take time to acknowledge your appreciation. Yes, this requires vulnerability, but it will be worth it, I promise. J

Start with at least one of these and see how it helps. If you are stressed out right now and feeling like you are drowning in the anxiety of what is or catastrophizing with the ‘what-if’s’, you have nothing to lose. Being a little different goes a long way in the domino effect of creating calm in the chaos.