Culture

Prepare not Panic: Managing Anxiety During a Difficult Time

Paula Tena
March 25th 2020

Set a Wellness Plan

The best thing we can all do at this time is to stay healthy. This includes both physical and mental health. As we all make the transition to stay at home, we must remember that even though we have limited resources, we still have great alternatives to work with
  1. Breathe - Taking deep breaths and practicing breathing exercises are one of the best ways to relieve stress. What many of us don’t realize is that sometimes when we’re anxious, we tend to hold our breath in which creates unneeded tension. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, use the 4-7-8 method. First, empty your lungs of air then breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds. Hold the breath in for 7 seconds and exhale forcefully through your mouth by pursing your lips to make a “woosh” sound for 8 seconds. Repeat this 4 times.
  2. Meditate - Whenever I find myself consumed with anxiety and stress, my favorite go-to calming activity is meditation. I find a quiet room in my house, sit upright or lie comfortably, close my eyes, and begin decluttering my mind of the distractions and noise of the world. Once I find a grounded position, I begin to focus on my breathing and the movement of my body. If you’re a beginner and have never tried meditation before, I highly recommend downloading the Headspace App. In fact, for the next few months, Headspace is offering a free section in their app called “Weathering the Storm” which includes various relaxation techniques to help us get through this stressful time.
  3. Go outside - With shelter-in-place orders enacted worldwide, some of us may be wondering, “Can I still go outside?” The answer is YES, unless you are sick or have been exposed to the virus. If you need to go out for essential items or medical reasons, please practice safe social distancing by steering clear of crowded areas and keeping a distance of 6 feet to avoid direct contact with your neighbor.
In addition to this, it is also acceptable (and encouraged) to go out and get some fresh air. Self-isolation does not mean you are not allowed to go out on a walk or ride your bike. Just remember to follow the rules above if you do decide to go outdoors, avoid touching your face, and wash your hands frequently.
  1. Exercise - I may not have an M.D. but we all know there are many health benefits of regular physical activity. It can improve weight management, reduce disease, strengthen your bones, prevent high blood pressure and last but not least, boost your mood and quality of life. Although gyms and studios are closed, don’t let that prevent you from breaking a sweat at home! Thanks to fitness Youtube channels, Instagram accounts, blogs and video-on-demand workouts, we have access to FREE at-home exercises at our fingertips. Grab your family members, kids, or roommates and make it a fun activity everyone can be a part of!
  2. Be mindful of what you eat - Why is it that desserts always taste better when we’re stressed? As much as we want to devour the pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream sitting in our freezer, eating clean is a big part of stress management. Depending on what you have in your cupboard, try avoiding excess sugars or carbs to maintain a more balanced diet. Oatmeal, spinach, salmon, blueberries and nuts are all foods that are scientifically proven to reduce stress.
  3. Take a break from media coverage - For some of us, hearing and seeing constant news about this pandemic can be hard to digest. If you find yourself overwhelmed with constant worry and panic, try limiting your media intake. The World Health Organization recommends minimizing watching, reading or listening to news that cause you to feel anxious and depressed. Try switching the channel to a funny movie or jamming out to your favorite album. If you need to seek information, do so at specific times during the day like in the morning or after dinner. Lastly, be careful where you get your news from. There are several fake reports circulating social media that are skewed and exaggerated. Make sure to stick to distinguished sources like WHO, the CDC website, and government health platforms.
  4. Vent - Everyone copes with anxiety and stress differently. While some like to keep to ourselves, others like myself prefer to talk things out. As previously stated before, it’s perfectly okay to be scared and vocalize your concerns. Use this extra time to connect with your loved ones by having open discussions and checking in on each other. If you have children or teens at your home, be mindful of what might be stressing them regardless if they show signs or not. They may need your support and reassurance but are unsure how to reach out.
  5. Seek virtual healthcare - Managing stress and anxiety can initially feel like a one-person job and slowly become unmanageable. If you feel like you’ve done everything you could to alleviate your worries, a possible option to consider is virtual healthcare. “Teletherapy” is a form of counseling that is done through text, phone, email or web. There may be a strange adjustment period at first, however deciding to get started can often be the most difficult part. Through teletherapy, a licensed medical professional can help you navigate through this gray period by recommending different coping strategies and providing a safe place to express your feelings. To try a virtual therapy session, contact your insurance provider to see if telehealth services are covered in your plan.

Summary

If you notice your mental health is declining, try one of these small acts to help drown out any negative emotions. Although this situation may appear to be out of our hands, know that you do have control of how it makes you feel. Regardless of how you choose to “self-care,” it is essential to actively stay on top of your well-being during times like this and encourage others to do the same.

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