The COVID 19 pandemic has changed our lives immensely in just a short time. What’s more, things seem to change every day or even multiple times a day, and there is a lot of uncertainty about what will happen next. Many people are struggling with feelings of anxiety, and not sure how to cope with the stress caused by the corona virus pandemic. As a therapist who often works with people with anxiety, I have a few thoughts about things that might help.
First, it’s important to acknowledge that this is an incredibly stressful situation, and one that none of us have faced before. It’s completely normal to feel stressed, anxious, worried, scared, and sad about being in this situation. Simply telling yourself not to feel that way won’t work, because this is actually a stressful situation. Acknowledging your feelings and that you have a reason to feel them can actually feel a bit reassuring.
At the same time, you don’t want to get stuck in those feelings—so you also want to do activities that help to remind you that even now things aren’t entirely bad. This is a two-pronged approach: limiting your exposure to the negative and increasing your exposure to the positive. In the first part, limiting the negative, limit your exposure to news about the pandemic. Rather than watching the news for hours or falling down the rabbit hole reading article after article about the pandemic, put a time limit on your news consumption and check for updates only once or twice per day. Ensure that you are using trusted news sources.
Consider limiting your interactions with those who tend to increase your distress…those who talk about nothing but the pandemic, who are focused only on the negative, or repeat rumours or doomsday scenarios. While it may seem heartless to cut someone off, you have the right to look after yourself. You can let them know that you find it too stressful to talk about certain aspects of the pandemic, that you would be happy to engage with them around other subjects but for your own well-being you need to limit interaction about certain topics. You can also let them know that you’re worried for them about their stress levels too and suggest it might do them good to take a break as well.
On the side of increasing your exposure to positive activities, look for things that remind you of the good in the world. This might include good news stories, stories of helpers and communities coming together. Look for things that bring you joy, whatever that may be, such as reading a good book, playing with your pet, watching a movie, talking to a friend, taking an online course, or baking something. Exercise boosts endorphins, and helping others is a great way to feel better yourself…if you’re able, look for a way to offer help to someone else.
As always, if you find yourself in need of additional support during this incredibly stressful time, you may find it helpful to reach out for the help of a trained therapist. Here at East Toronto Therapy we are offering sessions via phone as well as online through a secure platform to continue to provide support to our clients while reducing the spread of COVID 19.