Strategies to Reduce Anxiety During COVID-19
Guest post by Psychologist Dr. Vera Voroskolevska
The pandemic and its impact which includes significant economic consequences have led to an increase in anxiety throughout the globe. If you are sick of hearing about “how to make the most out of this difficult time”– you are not alone. There are ways to cope with this shared and collective stress; here is how:
Create and adapt your routine
It is simple – routine never fails you and it is especially essential at times of chaos. Simply put, routine gives you a sense of control and predictability. Routine allows you to tie a knot when you reach the end of your rope and hang on to something when you are ready to give up. Routine gives you a sense of control and it allows you to do things with ease without applying as much effort than when we start something new – both are essential at times of chaos and mental depletion.
Prior to COVID-19, most people had daily routines that were unavoidable, such as leaving for work on time or taking the kids to school. Now that COVID-19 concerns have people working from home and schools closed, the pandemic has wreaked havoc in our lives, leaving us feeling out of control. The disruption of routine and the need to adjust is one a major reason why we struggle during this time like never before.
So without further delay – step back and set a new solid routine based on your current lifestyle, environment, and needs. Plan (and plan realistically) your daily routine that includes sleep, meals, exercise, time with family and friends, etc. Again, plan realistically. Then give it a try; readjust again and again.
Think of routine as an opportunity to set simple and consistent goals will help give your day structure, and also keep you healthy! Staying healthy physically and mentally is now more important than ever!
Remember your relationships
Prior to COVID-19, most of us were surrounded by people every day at work, school, and overall daily life routines. The small talks, gatherings around water coolers, and informal greetings fulfilled our emotional needs drop-by-drop. Now that such opportunities are no longer as easily available to us, it is important to strengthen our remote connections intentionally and it is important to recognize that doing so requires more energy. It is also ok if you do not feel like reaching out to people. Do ask yourself “who do you want to talk to?” and then ask yourself “why?”. You might be surprised by what the answers hold.
Try to think of COVID-19 restrictions in terms of physical-distancing, not social-distancing. While social-distancing is the popularized term, the name can lead us to believe that we must limit all socializing; this is not the case. Safe and physically-distant socializing has never been more important. Feel free to forego a video chat and send a card, ship a parcel, or drop-off a gift at a porch. Most of us are simply exhausted by video because it forces us “to be on” and serves as a significant cognitive dissonance that “we are in this together apart”. Actually, if it feels right for you – stay as far from video as you desire. Cutting your neighbour’s grass, paying for stranger’s coffee in the drive-through, and offering a compliment to a stranger are underutilized and highly appreciated gestures that scream you care about others.
Last, but certainly not the least effective strategy for battling anxiety is our communication with others and ourselves. Most people undermine the importance of communication believing that others “should know” or that they have “asked once already”. Given that the quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our relationships and the quality of our relationships is determined by the quality of our communications, what we say (to ourselves and others) matters a lot.
Whether asking your partner to stop interrupting you during the working-from-home hours or setting boundaries with your boss – it is simple and yet uncomfortable. Such communication is best delivered clearly, consistently, and assertively. While delivering difficult messaging can be uncomfortable, the unspoken issues create tension, anxiety, and resentment in the relationship. Simply put – when there is an elephant in the room (or relationship) – introduce it! So starting now – speak up and do so with care, love, and commitment to your relationship for the other party.
Lastly, most and above it all – it matters how we speak about ourselves. Now more than ever we must be mindful (aka paying careful attention) of how we speak to and about ourselves. What story do we tell ourselves about the future? There has never been a better excuse to feel helpless, catastrophize the future, and defer or outsource our happiness ‘until this is over’. Such a passive and pessimistic storyline can serve us better when replaced with the narrative that our resiliency along with the ability to evolve and adapt can help thrive during the difficult times.
For more information on services offered by Dr. Vera Voroskolevska please visit Restore Balance Psychological and Counselling Services.