Coronavirus, specifically COVID-19, is a novel type of coronavirus that has taken the globe by surprise. Listed as a “pandemic,” this virus can be easily spread from person to person and cause symptoms such as fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. While it seems that the virus is most dangerous for the elderly, people of all ages are concerned about the impacts this virus will have on international health, economics, and social interactions.
Some people have never witnessed a pandemic in their lifetime or been faced with such social limitations. They are worried about how they will work from home or deal with lost income if that is not an option. With schools and events shutting down nationally, U.S. citizens are panic-buying food, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. People wonder: Is the anxiety contagion inevitable? What should I believe about what I read online? Is it really that bad? No one knows what the outcome of the pandemic will be. No one can predict the number of people who will be affected by it or exactly how the economy will end up. All the uncertainty can lead to even more anxiety than what is directly fueled by the threat of viral illness.
Modern technology has given us access to more information than our ancestors, but some of that information can do more harm than good. Our contemporary lifestyle and technologies have made us aware of threats inconceivable to our predecessors. This has wreaked havoc on our autonomic nervous systems and left us more vulnerable to the physical impacts of stress. However, there are a variety of ways we can combat the negative effects of stress, including stress from the coronavirus outbreak:
- Go for a run or walk. Although social distancing practices are in place in many areas around the country, going outside for a walk or run is within the limits of social distancing as long as you maintain adequate distance from others. Even if you can’t run, being outside and walking, in general, reduces stress hormones.
- Get a good night’s rest. Sleep deprivation and interrupted sleep can make it more difficult to focus on what matters during the day.
- Try mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness Meditation has been scientifically proven to lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and help with insomnia. There are many apps and online videos available to help you focus on the present and regulate the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for modulating emotions) which may be working overtime during the pandemic.
- Stay social. Though we are seeing more limits on physical social contact, we still have the technology. Stay connected with friends and family as much as you can, and check-in with vulnerable individuals.
- Eat well. If you are avoiding the grocery stores, it can be hard to eat healthy food since most fresh foods do not last long. Frozen vegetables are a good alternative, and smoothies can be made easily from frozen fruits. Avoid excess sugar and salt as you don’t want food to tax your body in addition to stress.
- Stay appropriately informed. Keep up to date with the national guidelines for safety, but don’t go overboard. During pandemics when entire communities panic, remember that we are still faced with many unknowns and that this does not have to be bad. Paul Krauss MA LPC from Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids talks about the positive side of embracing a stance of not knowing to help reduce anxiety on his podcast (The Intentional Clinician). For more information, read or listen here.
Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids here to support you through this stressful time. If you would like to talk to someone about your fears and concerns, please contact us. We have telehealth options available so you don’t need to come into the office.
- We are offering additional options to our clients and the community: Optional Secure Telehealth/ Remote Therapy (covered by insurance), Additional Sanitation Procedures at the Office, and more flexible cancellation policy.
- Please do not hesitate to reach out to your therapist/clinician directly for details. We will customize a plan for your needs. You can also call our reception M-TH, 9-5, (616)-200-4433.
- If you are needing additional support for health anxiety— do not hesitate to make an appointment: healthforlifegr.com — make sure to follow CDC recommendations for your age and risk level.
If you are in Michigan and have questions or concerns about the coronavirus, contact the Michigan coronavirus hotline at 1-888-535-6136. It is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For other states, find more information at this link. For more information about handling stress during the coronavirus outbreak, visit the CDC website.