As we continue to experience the ever-evolving effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19), symptoms of anxiety may also be on the rise. During this time it may not be uncommon to be experiencing a fight, flight, or freeze response due to our minds and bodies working on increased adrenaline trying to make any sense of all the information that is currently uncertain, unknown, unavailable, or out of our control related to COVID-19.
Research shows the impact of stress on our immune system. When we are experiencing stress, our body will suppress our immune system thus leaving us with an increased risk to infection and disease. We have been seeing many tips and precautions to take related to our physical health, however there are also ways to can keep our mental health strong as well.
- Stay Connected: Humans are social beings; isolation is detrimental to our mental health. The good news is there are many ways we can stay connected with others despite the recommendations for social distancing. If you have access to technology, video chats are a great way to connect with others, being able to see others facial expressions increases our connection. Take the time to connect and strengthen relationships with the people you live with and check in with friends, family, and neighbors regularly. It may be a good time to send a written letter to a friend, send a friend a music playlist you created, play online games with others, find an online book club to join, or another virtual group. Remind yourself that social distancing does not mean social isolation.
- Set Boundaries: It is important to stay factually informed however, it can become quickly overwhelming if we have excessive and continuous exposure to information related to COVID-19. One thing you can do is set a time for the amount of exposure you have with the media. It is also important to make sure the sources you are receiving information from are credible. Other ways you can set boundaries is within your conversations with others. We need the support of one another during this time however, there are still many other positive things happening. Make it a goal in your conversations to honor the positives in one another’s lives.
- Soothing Activities: We may feel we are being consumed by thoughts and questions of what the future holds. Unfortunately, we do not have the information of what the future looks like however, we do have the ability to use mindfulness to gain information. Mindfulness is a mental state of focusing one’s awareness in the present moment. Picking a soothing mindfulness skill such as meditation, deep breathing, observing and describing, or paying attention to your five senses has been proven to be beneficial in slowing down anxious thoughts.
- Acknowledge & Distract: We do not want the emotions we have towards the COVID-19 situation to be avoided; we need to acknowledge our emotions to decrease their intensity. Once we acknowledge them it will be vital to distract yourself in an activity. Take the time to learn a new skill, engage in art, build something, complete a puzzle, read a book, research something you’ve been interested in, make music, dance, watch tv, journal, organize a space in your home, or call a friend. Social distancing does not mean that nature is off limits. Distract yourself by going on a hike, taking a walk, riding your bike, or simply sitting outside.
There will be many of us affected by the ripple effects of the COVID-19 illness. By taking the time to stay connected, set boundaries, soothe yourself, and acknowledge your emotions with distractions in place, we will be able to not only boost our immune system but also support one another during these unsettling times.