Dr. Kassam Keep Anxiety At Bay During This Pandemic

How To Keep Anxiety At Bay During This Pandemic

 

Did you know that short term anxiety can be motivating if used correctly but when it becomes chronic can actually paralyze you? During this pandemic a lot of people are worrying about their own health, the health of loved ones both near and far, financial strains and a whole lot of uncertainty in the near and far future. 
 
It is common to feel anxious during times of sudden change and during times of uncertainty. So, if you are feeling an increased amount of anxiety or worry right now due to the current pandemic - rest assured you are NOT alone. A lot of people are feeling overwhelmed, concerned and worrying themselves sick. 
 
Feeling anxious in certain situations can be beneficial in that it can help us avoid danger. This is how evolution has trained us mentally to keep safe and to keep learning new survival skills. Anxiety is completely normal and rather common during this point in time - everyone is feeling it to different degrees. Research in past pandemics revealed that individuals who worried more were more likely to keep the virus away due to being more cautious and following protocols for not contracting the virus - ie. washing hands more frequently, not touching your face, etc. 
 
While anxiety can be normal, too much anxiety can start to take over and this can be damaging to your health, quickly. Feeling fearful everyday can lead to panic. During panic mode people tend to take measures that can cause major disruptions to our system like stockpiling on medical supplies or other items that actually take away from the people that need them. Responding in these ways can make us feel more anxious and prevent us from thinking clearly to develop plans. It is important to focus on the things you can control right now vs. dwelling on the “what if”. Having a plan in place can help you feel in control of the situation. 
 
Anxiety at the right amount can be helpful in directing us towards positive action and keeping us safe. It is important to recognize when the anxiety starts to take over and leads to catastrophizing.  
 

Tips To Control Your Anxiety During This Pandemic

 

1. Recognize The Root Cause Of Your Behaviours

This means you need to ask yourself why you are engaging in certain habits. For example, are you washing your hands frequently because you know this action can keep you safe or are you doing it to reduce anxiety? Once you recognize this, try and shift your behaviour to be rooted at keeping you safe vs. doing it to reduce feelings of anxiety and panic. 
 

2. Don’t Always Listen To Your Mind

Oftentimes our mind is telling us a story which may not necessarily be reality. We have control over our thoughts, even though this can be quite challenging. It is important to understand that worrying about something, won’t necessarily give you the outcome you desire. The anxious mind will often fill in the blanks of what if with worst case scenarios. Here are some questions you can ask yourself when you see yourself catastrophizing:
  • Are these worries within my control?
  • Is this reality or is my brain creating a story for me? 
  • What positive actions can I talk away from this?
 

3. Keep Track Of Your Thoughts

Writing on paper your worries and anxieties automatically gives you control in expressing them. When you feel the worries coming through, jot them down, acknowledge it, accept it and then physically close the book and mentally let it go with a couple deep breaths.
 

4. Limit How Much News Is Consumed At Home

Since most of us are working from home, it's easy to have the radio or news channel on 24/7. On top of this, we all have direct notifications coming to our social media channels. The way we consume news today, especially during uncertain times like this can be anxiety provoking for adults but also for kids. Limit your exposure to new information and schedule a specific time to check in with the news. Stay informed but don’t constantly check for updates.
 

5. Keep Doing Self-Care

Keep doing the things that make you feel good. Whether it's exercising at home, keeping your social connections virtually or keeping up with your hobbies at home. We are all limited in the things we can do, but it's time to get creative with your hobbies. For example, when you have no weights for your at-home workout, try using things you have at home like, pots & pans, the couch and canned goods!
 

6. Stick To Health-First Websites, Like Health Canada, CDC and NHS 

This will allow you to not get caught up in speculation and instead focus on the facts and clear instructions on COVID-19. 
 

7. Stay Connected 

In times of high stress it is easy to isolate yourself and not want to talk to people. However, as much as we are physically distancing ourselves from people, it is important to maintain those social connections as this helps us feel supported and reduce feelings of anxiety.
  • Call, text or video chat with friends and family, daily. It is important to create times on these calls that are non COVID-19 topics 
  • Start a virtual book club
  • Cook and deliver some food or groceries to someone you know needs it. When we help other people it makes us feel better
 

8. Maintain Your Day-To-Day Activities And A Routine As Much As Possible

More free time can heighten anxiety. Routine allows for predictability, which can be supportive for those who have heightened anxiety. Having a healthy routine can have a positive impact on your feelings and emotions. 
Go back to the basics - If you are working from home, make sure you get up, get dressed and eat as if you were heading to work. Plan out the times you will be working. After work, make sure you are still making dinner, exercising, and keeping the same wake up and bed times. 
Shift your focus to things you are able to do at home and add these to your daily routine: 
  • Read a book
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Continue learnings in your field
  • Try a new hobby → cook a new recipe, learn a new language, daily crossword puzzles 
 
 
 
We will all come out of this together. It is important to know that challenging times like these are what help us build resilience and become stronger individuals. So, stay strong and make the most of this time. Be kind to yourself, this is an anxious and stressful time for everyone. It's okay to take some time for yourself and your mental health, it's okay to have moments of anxiety, it's all okay. Live in the moment and take it one day at a time. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
** Disclaimer: The advice in this article is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the care of a Naturopathic physician.