How to Cope with COVID-19 if you struggle with OCD and Anxiety
Gabrielle Solomone, LCSW
Gabby is our in-house expert on OCD, eating disorders, anxiety, and more. She knows all too well that anxiety can be intrusive and at times, it can feel like it’s taking over– especially when it’s anxiety in regard to a global pandemic. Gabby put together some quick tips to keep your anxiety manageable, and day (hopefully) a little less stressful.
By now I am sure you are feeling burnt out hearing and reading about Covid-19. So I am going to try and keep this simple. In treatment, I honestly believe less is more. I like to keep things simple and I try to not over complicate things when teaching skills on how to cope and work through the anxieties of day to day life. Right now we all need to give ourselves some compassion and space, to feel all of what we are feeling. If you are feeling a little (or a lot) panicked right now that’s okay because there is a lot of uncertainty in the world. Remember this is the first time any of us are going through this.
Lets jump in and go over six quick tips for coping with Covid-19 Anxiety.
Try to limit Covid-19 news to less than 10 minutes per day. If that feels too hard, try 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening. You do not need to know or be the expert on everything about Covid-19 (!), what the government is doing or not doing, or how many more people have gotten it. Ten minutes per day should be enough time to get you all of the information you need to keep yourself and your loved ones safe and informed. The more news you consume, the more you feed your anxiety and this fuels you to check/google/seek reassurance more and more!
Practice Mindfulness! Mindfulness is about paying attention on purpose, with purpose, in the present moment and without judgement of our emotions or our thoughts. Practicing for a few minutes each day can help ground you. Take a few deep breaths in and out, feel the flow of the breath, how it expands your chest and stomach and then push it all out, release and notice the sensations you feel. Go outside, notice what you see, hear, physically feel, and smell. Tune into what’s around you and let your thoughts come and go, don’t judge them and don’t engage with them, just let them BE!
Follow a Daily Routine Whether you are working or not right now, set yourself up with a daily schedule to follow. Eat 3 meals and enough snacks each day. Make sure you drink some water, we can’t survive on only coffee, and alcohol. Make sure you are getting up and going to bed around the same time each day. Flannel after 3 days smells like failure! Take a shower, brush your teeth, eat breakfast, make a list of what you want to do that day. If you don’t have anything pressing that needs to be done, think about projects that you have been putting off! Or something you have been wanting to try or saying that you don’t have time for, set a time in your schedule and DO IT!
Worry Doesn’t Solve the Problem Try to not engage in the worry thoughts, worrying doesn’t actually solve the problem at hand. If it is too hard to not engage with the worry thoughts, try postponing your worry, set a specific time each day to worry. When you notice that you are worrying write it down, when your worry time comes, go through your list and see if you are still worried about the problems on the list. Only focus on the worries that are still bothering you, spend about 30 minutes problem solving your worries for the day.
Allow space to grieve Grieve the loss of things that have been cancelled, allow space to be sad for things that aren’t happening right now, the things that you have been looking forward to. I’m not saying that those things will never happen again, what I am saying is that right now they are pausedand I have zero clue when we can reschedule them for.
It’s all about perspective Try reframing/reappraising your thoughts around what is going on. Remember, this is not personal. List out the facts that you have and the facts that you don’t have. With everything going on in the world remember what you can control and what you can’t control. Lots of things are out of our control and the more we try to control them the more we feel out of control. Remember the only thing you have control over is your behaviors.You don’t have control over your thoughts or your emotions. You only have control over the behaviors that you do when you have those unwanted thoughts or unwanted emotions. You can not control others, you can only control how you respond to those around you!