There’s always something to think about, always something to worry about, always something to focus our attention on. If you are someone who struggles with anxiety, these sentiments could not be more true. Currently, the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is on everyone’s minds. And this is leading to some serious coronANXIETY. Compared to most events or situations that take place in more isolated areas and impact a smaller group of people (e.g., natural weather events), this is not only a national issue, but has officially been declared a worldwide pandemic. In addition to this illness being a pandemic, it is very unusual for there to be a current event that affects nearly every person in our country, let alone the world.
Strategies to Lessen the Psychological Impact
- Be prepared: This is one of the easiest things you can do to minimize your nerves about this pandemic. This means following the CDC guidelines to prepare yourself, your family, and your home with at least a two week supply in the event that a quarantine is or becomes necessary. This does not mean purchasing every bottle of hand sanitizer or package of toilet paper on the shelf. Why? While it’s incredibly helpful to make sure we are taking care of ourselves, likewise we need to make sure that we are taking care of others by ensuring that supplies are available for all. This is a community effort, after all. And to be honest, by taking care of others, you’re also taking care of yourself.
- Stay calm and rational: Reason always prevails. This may seem challenging given that nearly every news segment, online article, Facebook posting, etc. seems to be related to the coronavirus. Whether we are hearing the most recent stats on the newest cases, deaths, or large scale event closings or cancellations, there is a constant stream of news about the coronavirus. This information is not meant to create a mass hysteria, but sometimes that is the outcome of such warnings that are solely intended to encourage the public to prepare. Nonetheless, that’s the keyword. Prepare. As mentioned above, it’s important that you stay prepared but that you remain rational throughout this period of time. Irrational thinking often leads to irrational action; there is nothing positive or productive that can come from acting out of emotion rather than thinking things through and responding in a clear and realistic manner. It also may seem challenging given that this is a highly emotional issue. However, being reactive and emotional about this issue certainly will not get us anywhere.
- Stay connected: No, this doesn’t mean going out in public and exposing yourself. Fortunately, in this day and age, we have many different options for staying connected to others that don’t involve potential exposure to illnesses. From FaceTime, Skype, text messaging, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc., there are many different ways to get in contact with our loved ones. During this time, it’s more important than ever to stay connected and receive support from people you care about. Not only is it helpful to receive support, it is incredibly helpful to provide that support to others. Having someone to talk to during this time can be very comforting and reassuring, which of course leads us to our next point: seeking professional help.
- Professional mental health care: Again, even though the guidelines of social distancing and minimizing social contact are in play right now, this does not rule out the option to engage in therapy or seek the services of a mental health professional. Fortunately, telehealth services have been around for quite a while. Not only are these types of services very useful, during a time such as now when people can benefit more than ever from working with a mental health professional, having an online remote platform allows for those services to be obtained without increasing your risk of exposure to illness. At Tampa Therapy, this is a service that we have always provided for those who are unable to attend sessions in person for numerous reasons. At this time in history, this platform is more helpful than ever. It allows people to obtain the necessary services to help them through this challenging mental and emotional time. If you are experiencing an increase or the onset of anxiety symptoms, obsessive compulsive behaviors such as frequent and repetitive handwashing, or feeling heightened paranoia about health related matters, just to name a few, there is absolutely no reason that you cannot seek and obtain needed help at this point. Our Telehealth services allow for us to provide therapy while you stay in the comfort of your home, and still allow for either face-to-face virtual contact with your therapist, or a phone session.
- If you notice you’re feeling worried or nervous, implement deep breathing practices. Deep breathing is an excellent strategy to quickly reduce nervousness as it can be done anywhere without any special equipment. (If this is something you are wanting to learn more about, contact Tampa Therapy for deep breathing training.)
- Identify what your specific thoughts (i.e., concerns) are and write them down.
- Go through each concern and consider whether it is a realistic worry or unlikely to actually happen.
- If the concerns are realistic, identify what aspects of the situation you have control over and what you can do to perhaps influence the outcome. (*Note-If your concern is about feeling unprepared, go back to the first strategy and make sure you have done what you can to prepare yourself and your family.)
- If your concerns are unrealistic, or realistic (but something you have little control over), acknowledge that and move on by redirecting your thoughts and energy elsewhere.
- If you have done all you can to prepare yourself and your family, and worry and fear are still at the forefront of your mind, do some things to distract yourself like watching television (and not the news!), read a book, exercise, cook, etc.
- If you struggle with a cleanliness OCD (and perhaps were on the road to living a life relatively free of OCD-symptom distress), the increase in hand washing recommendations and cleanliness awareness may be triggering or feel like a setback. It’s important to follow the CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of this and other illnesses, but there is a difference between following the guidelines and going overboard. This can be a slippery slope for some; be on the lookout for a change in your behaviors, and utilize previously learned strategies and/or and seek professional help.
Remember: It is possible to stay healthily informed and prepared while not constantly and overly-exposing ourselves to the media frenzy.
An Important Reminder to Our Patients (Current and New):
This policy is our standard procedure, and we want to re-emphasize it in the wake of COVID-19: Please do not come to appointments if you are sick with a cold, flu, or other illness. Likewise, your therapist will honor this policy. This is to ensure that illnesses are not spread to clients, staff, and families and children at home. In the event that either you or your therapist is sick with a cold, flu, or contagious illness, or might be contagious, the appointment will *not* be canceled but you and your therapist will arrange to meet online or by phone at your scheduled appointment time or later in the week, if needed. For more information, please visit our contact us page.
WE’RE HERE TO HELP
At Tampa Therapy, we are committed to providing a relaxing, healing, and non-judgmental environment to support you on your journey to mental and emotional growth and health, and during times of distress and unease such as in the present. If you want things to be different, you have to change them.
If you are ready to start making important changes in your life and believe that now is the time for you to make that commitment, give us a call or email us today to start the process of getting help.