I am having trouble with dealing with anxiety and stress about COVID. I find it difficult to breathe sometimes and I often find myself worrying about all the uncertainty. Do you have any tips or advice? How can I manage this better?
Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Kiley Brescoach answers questions from readers about their problems, big and small. Have a question? Email her at kiley@wvcounseling
Dear Appalachian Life,
I consider myself a relatively happy person. I have a good group of friends and family that support me. I was so excited for the summer, but now I feel so disappointed. It seems like life has stopped. COVID happened and everything I loved seems to be so different. Every time I watch the news, it seems like more "doom and gloom". I worry about friends, family, going out, staying in... it seems like my whole world changed.
I am having trouble dealing with anxiety and stress about COVID. I worry about getting it, financial challenges, and all of this "social distancing" and isolation. I find it difficult to breathe sometimes and I often find myself worrying about all the uncertainty. I feel sad and lonely. I had a little anxiety before all of this, but it really seems like a lot now. I feel tense and realize this is out of my control, but I struggle to figure this out.
Do you have any tips or advice? How can I manage this better?
Thank you for reaching out. I’m sorry to hear you have been struggling with that. I know anxiety can feel pretty scary. You are not alone, so many of us are figuring out how to adjust to a world that is so uncertain.
COVID 19 has made so many vast changes on how we live today. Daily living routines, financial strains and social isolation come along with this uncertainty. It makes sense that you may worry about how long this will last, if you will get sick, and what the future may look like. Media rumors, misinformation and information overload can make your life feel out of control and make it unclear what to do.
Self-care strategies are good for your mental and physical health and can help you take charge of your life. Take care of your mind and your body and connect with others to benefit your overall wellness.
Take care of your mind.
Reduce the stress triggers:
Listening to music
Take care of your body.
Be mindful about your physical health:
Taking short walks
Choose healthy foods
Stretch your body!
Managing the Panic.
I have a couple of tips that might help when you find it hard to breathe.
Hand Tracing to Ground and Calm.
Practice tracing your fingers with your opposite hand. When you trace up a finger, inhale through your nose. As you trace down your finger, exhale through your mouth. Practice this daily. This is a great way to help you ground and calm.
Scheduling the Worry.
For your worrying, what you can do is set a time in the day to worry. This is a Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Technique. Some things we inevitably worry about, work, children, family etc. Sometimes our worrying can keep us safe; but other times it can get in the way of living. By setting a time of day in which you sit down with your list of worries, and feel all those feelings, you’re working at increasing awareness, acknowledging and processing these. Often times when this becomes a routine, we can find ourselves getting sick of worrying. When a worrisome thought pops in your head, write it down and put that list to the side for the day until your scheduled worry time. I wish you the best with these practices.
Recognizing What is Normal and What is Not.
Stress is a normal physiological and psychological reaction to the demands of life. Everyone reacts differently to difficult situations, and it's normal to feel stress and worry during a crisis. The pile up of stressors related to COVID 19 can make you feel like you are being pushed to the brink.
Even though you are doing the best that you can, you may find yourself feeling sad, overwhelmed, frustrated, irritable, angry, hopeless, anxious or afraid. It may be difficult to concentrate, sleep, relax, eat, and you may even physically ache.
When these signs and symptoms last for several days in a row, make you miserable and cause problems in daily living so that you find it hard to carry out normal responsibilities, it's time to ask for help.
There are several options to increase your support.
Call a friend or close family member
Join a virtual support group
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
Call us at 681-404-68680 or register on our site at www.wvcounseling.com
Please be kind to yourself. Remember, our feelings come and go. We are not ALWAYS happy, or ALWAYS sad; our feelings ebb and flow with life. The strong feelings will most likely fade crises slow down but stress won't disappear from your life when the health crisis of COVID-19 ends. Stress is a part of life and continuing to practice self care will help you navigate and cope with life's ongoing challenges.
I hope this helps!
Dear Appalachian Life is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. By submitting a letter, you are agreeing to let Appalachian Life use it—in part or in full—and we may edit it for length and/or clarity.
Kiley Brescoach is a contributing writer at Appalachian Life Enrichment Counseling Center and a licensed psychotherapist based in Fairmont, WV.