Tips to Help You Manage Anxiety During the COVID-19 Crisis
Posted on 03/24/20 in Health by Haley Dunn, MA, LPC
How is everyone out there? A little anxious? Me too, to be honest.
The recent COVID-19 outbreak has left very few aspects of our normal lives untouched. Many of us have lost our routines, haven't seen friends or family in what feels like weeks, and aren't getting to enjoy our social hobbies and typical outings.
All of this, coupled with the uncertainty of the future, is the perfect combination to cause daily anxiety. It is important during this time to find simple, yet effective, coping strategies for when you feel like your anxiety is increasing. Keep in mind the following things as you try to establish a new normal routine during this crazy time.
Respect the power of a consistent schedule. Staying on schedule will help greatly with anxiety. The schedule doesn’t have to be spelled out perfectly—simple blocks of time when you will do certain activities will do. Our brains thrive on consistency. By setting a schedule, we are able to control at least one aspect of our lives in such an unpredictable time.
One specific aspect of a schedule that is extremely important is your sleeping schedule. I know that regulating sleep can be a challenge for individuals on the spectrum, but do your best to try to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day.
Another consistent way to stay on a schedule is to eat meals at regular intervals, just as you would when you were not quarantined. Our bodies need to be fueled throughout the day. To help reduce stress on the body, eat regular, healthy meals at your normal times of day.
Be mindful of what you are eating. When you are at home, food is only a few steps away! It is also easy to stress-eat by leaning on your favorite comfort foods. Know that eating well helps reduce stress long-term more than our comfort food does in the moment. Of course there will be days where eating comfort food is exactly what you need so do it, then get back on track the next day. The key here is to be mindful and balanced.
Speaking of being mindful, if you have been resistant to/not interested in mindfulness up to this point, now is the time to start practicing. My personal favorites are outlined below. They are easy to get started and can be done in the comfort of your home. If you don’t like these, there are many options online or downloadable apps to choose from!
Box breathing: Use this graphic, or find your own and breathe in for four counts. Hold for four counts. Breathe out for four counts and hold for four counts. Do at least five full boxes. Do more if it is feeling good for you. Breathing helps ‘reset’ the brain and reduce anxious feelings.
Muscle relaxation: This involves tensing up your body, breathing, and then release the tense parts. Here is an easy to read script.
It is important to move your body. As much as Netflix and video games are fun to pass the time, your body needs attention too. Be sure to find some form of simple, daily exercise that you can repeat throughout the day.
Cosmic Kids on Youtube has some great yoga videos to help you move and get a story in the process. Love Harry Potter? Star Wars? There’s a Cosmic Kids yoga for that! This great activity is not just for kids!
For outdoor movement, get to a park and walk. Our new orders from the Ohio governor allow us to still go to parks to walk (no playground equipment though). Spending time in the outdoors and walking are especially important to maintaining mental health. Walking has a calming aspect to the nervous system, so take this time to connect to nature and find some peaceful moments in the midst of this chaotic time.
Social media and the news
Now is the time to set limits on social media intake. I know, this one is tough for me too. There is so much content on the coronavirus that it is overwhelming and seeing it over and over amps up anxiety. This post might be overwhelming. Set limits on how much you will read or watch about the virus. You phone can help you with alerting you to how much screen time you have had in certain apps- this might be helpful if you are having trouble taking a break from all the news.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Milestones Teen/Adult Manager Haley Dunn, MA, LPC, works with individuals with ASD to help them transition to adulthood. Haley has worked with children birth to five, school age, teens and adults, providing diagnosis and treatment of mental health. Haley has experience assisting individuals with developmental disabilities transition from school to work as the Bridges to Transition Vocational Rehabilitation Coordinator at Clermont County Board of Developmental Disabilities. She has spoken at conferences throughout Ohio on mental health and topics related to individuals with disabilities. Haley has a deep passion for connecting people to their community, whether it is through employment, volunteering or life enrichment activities. Haley earned her MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Xavier University.