Coping With Coronavirus Anxiety
As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, it’s easy to surrender to the fears of all the unknowns. Add in the practice of social distancing and quarantine and people around the world are experiencing an almost unprecedented amount of anxiety, stress, fear, and panic. It is normal to experience such a storm of emotions when facing this crisis. However, your emotional health during this time is just as important as your physical health. You can respond effectively to your coronavirus anxiety.
Utilizing the work of psychotherapist, Dr. Russ Harris, we can respond to our coronavirus anxiety by using the acronym FACE COVID and highlighting the importance of mindfulness, values, and action. Let’s start with:
F- Focus on What’s in Your Control
The way we react to the current crisis differs for everybody. As the virus spreads around our community it’s natural to feel lost in the fear and anxiety. However, being overcome by these emotions are neither helpful nor useful. Instead, focus on what’s in your control.
There is no way to control how long the current situation will last or how our local and federal government responds. We also can’t just turn on and off our anxious feelings. You can, however, control your behavior and that can make all the difference.
How can we control our behavior? It’s important to ground yourself when the storm of emotions swirl around. You can start by going through the next letters of the FACE COVID acronym.
A – Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings
C – Come back into your body
E – Engage in what you’re doing
Let’s go through these one by one.
A- Acknowledge Your Thoughts and Feelings
Acknowledge the thoughts, feelings or emotions that are swirling inside you. It can also help to put these into words. Say to yourself what you are feeling “My anxiety is extreme”, “This feels like grief”, “I feel like I’m getting sick”. It’s very important to go through this step and while acknowledging these feelings…
C-Come Back into Your Body
Connect with your physical self. Here are a few approaches:
- Stretch a few muscles or shrug your shoulder back and forth.
- Breath in and out slowly
- Push your feet hard into the ground
Even though you can’t control all your emotions you can control these physical actions (Remember the F). As you are acknowledging your feelings and coming back into your body try to….
E- Engage in What You’re Doing
Focus your attention on an activity and engage in what you are doing. Try to focus on things you can see, hear, or smell. Here are some examples:
- Find 5 things you can see around in the room you are in
- Notice 3 things you can hear
- Notice what tastes or smells are in your mouth and nose
It’s best to go through the ACE cycle a few times to really ground yourself in your reality. These skills are very useful to not just face your coronavirus anxiety but handling other difficult memories, ruminating thoughts, and even just focusing your attention on the task at hand.
Once you have attached yourself to the present moment you can easily move on to the next steps: COVID.
C- Committed Action
Committed action means you are guided by your values and turn them into effective action. Once you have gone through the ACE technique and anchored yourself you will have control over your actions.
Think about what simple and realistic ways you can take care of yourself or loved ones. Can you reach out to one of your extroverted friends having difficulty with social distancing through a phone call or video conference? Try to help your spouse with dinner tonight. Whatever this may use your core values, turn it into committed action, and engage fully.
O- Opening Up
Open up and make room for the hard feelings but be kind to yourself. The crisis will continue to unfold, and the swirl of emotions will persist. We can’t stop them from arising, but we can treat ourselves with compassion and open up about these feelings.
Your values might include empathy, respect, loyalty, love or humor. Find ways to include these values in your daily life and let them guide you into committed action.
Consider: What are ways you can treat yourself kindly as you get through this? What are ways my values can contribute (safely) to my community? What are kind actions you can do for yourself?
Of course, while we are in isolation or social distancing, there are some things that cannot be done but you can still live your values in a variety of ways.
I- Identify Resources
Identify your resources for support. This, of course, includes your family and friends but also identify your emergency services and healthcare professionals. Let your social network know that you are available for support just like they are for you. It is also important to identify reliable and credible sources of news. The World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control both have reliable information and accurate updates on COVID-19.
D- Disinfect & Distance Physically
We know this all over the news but it’s important to repeat. Practice good hygiene (washing your hands often) and social distancing. However, physical distancing does not mean emotional distancing! Realize that these are truly compassionate actions and align them deeply with your values so you can effectively turn it into committed action.
Face your Coronavirus Anxiety with Help from A Therapist
As with any type of anxiety, facing your coronavirus anxiety often requires some guidance and teamwork. Coronavirus has many folks worried about their physical health — taking precautions, etc. It is essential to equally prioritize your emotional health.
If you feel the anxiety is getting harder to rein in, help is suggested and available. Reach out to a therapist to get the counseling you need in these tricky times. Together, you can conjure up ways to focus on what is within your control while accepting the rest. So many of us are in uncharted territory now but that does not mean we cannot discover new paths to learn and grow amidst the uncertainty.
Finally, if you need help managing excessive fear or worry, please reach out for a consultation today. At Eddins Counseling Group, in Houston, TX we have many experienced therapists that specialize in anxiety treatment and online therapy is convenient and available. Give us a call at 832-559-2622 or book an appointment online.
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