Jessica Wulf, LMSW - WNY BloodCare Medical Social Worker
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has drastically changed all of our lives in a short amount time. Many aspects of this experience perpetuates anxious feelings like the overflow of information, the uncertainty about the coming days, the isolation, and the lack of resources. These feelings are especially true if you experienced anxiety prior to COVID-19. Here are some ways to help manage your stress and cope with these very real and valid feelings.
- It’s important to stay informed and be aware of what’s happening but set limits to the amount of coverage you’re taking in. If you start to feel overwhelmed or increasingly anxious know when to step away or start another activity to distract yourself from continually checking the news.
- Make sure the information you are following comes from reliable and accurate sources. Often times inaccurate information can create more overthinking and exacerbate symptoms of anxiety when it’s unnecessary. Sources like the CDC and World Health Organization offers reliable and factual information.
- Social media is a great way to stay connected, especially during social distancing, but taking breaks and vetting information is essential in reducing anxiety. With everyone talking about COVID-19, logging onto Facebook really doesn’t provide a “break” from information. It can sometimes be more harmful if you are already anxious because there is much more misinformation on these sites.
Monitor your anxiety
- Know the difference between a normal anxious response to COVID-19 and symptoms that are atypical. Drastic changes in the symptoms, listed below, might mean you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and may want to reach out to a medical professional, especially if you have a pre-existing diagnosis of anxiety or panic disorders.
- Difficulty sleeping and concentrating
- Anger and irritability
- Change in eating and sleeping patterns
- Increased use of alcohol and other drugs
- Panic attacks
- Know the signs and symptoms of your anxiety. You are the best expert on yourself and knowing what triggers you’re anxiety helps to know certain things to avoid or early warning signs.
- Check in with your support system. Even during social distancing, talk to those that are close to you and will allow you to vent your concerns and validate your feelings.
- Know the things you can control. When anxiety kicks in and we feel that life is out of control, being aware of what you can readily control, can help. Knowing you can socially distance yourself to stop the spread of COVID-19, washing your hands and taking precautions, knowing the resources in your area, and having a solid support system available.
- Getting plenty of sleep and rest. It’s important to keep your immune system running at full capacity.
- Taking care of yourself. Finding different ways to unwind, stay active, and healthy while also adhering to social distancing.
Make a plan
- Find certain things in the uncertainty. When you are home, not working or following a routine, life can seem like it’s in a tailspin. Make sure to list and plan the things you can. Whether it’s a daily routine or listing the things that can trigger your anxiety. If creating lists adds to your stress then start each day with a small goal or affirmation. Having concrete things to achieve can bring back some balance and stability.
- Don’t get hung up on the perfect. There are no perfect plans and it’s important to remember that. Being proactive and thinking ahead can be a good thing, in moderation. If you are prone to anxiety this can quickly lead into overthinking. It’s important to find the balance and be aware of your limits.
Ways to cope
- Breathing exercises. Using deep breathing techniques can help you calm down and settle your mind. There are many different breathing exercises that are simple and easy to do. It’s best to practice them when you aren’t experiencing panic or anxiety so you know how to do them during those critical moments. Click here for Breathing exercises
- Practice Mindfulness. Mindfulness is staying in the present and focusing on the here and now. This can sometimes be difficult to master but it helps when the “what-ifs” start spiraling. There are many quick and simple practices to help you be present in the moment. Click here for Mindfulness Exercises
- Lean into your support system. When you feel overwhelmed talking to someone can help to alleviate worries and panic. Know the people in your life that are good listeners and can allow you to vent and talk.
- Find the positive. Sometimes finding the silver lining and positives can feel impossible. Helping others and being a support for someone else can add purpose and make you feel good. Remember kindness is contagious! In difficult times helping others and doing meaningful activities can be the best medicine.
Things to Remember
- If you are being treated for an anxiety or panic disorder, maintain communication with you doctor or therapist during this time and make sure to seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, suicidal, and feel unable to remain safe. Call 1- 800-273-TALK (8255) or text Got5 to 741741. They can provide you with immediate crisis services.
- Having a bleeding and clotting disorder adds another layer of stress and uncertainty. Please call Western New York BloodCare and let us know your concerns. We may be able to help alleviate your worries or stress by answering any questions about your care during this time.
- Social distancing does not mean social isolation. Stay connected and involved however you can. Make it a point to call or check in with someone daily and use video chatting to have face to face connections.
Please reach out to us with any additional questions or concerns. We understand the stress of COVID-19 and our goal is to make you feel supported and prepared.