Coping with coronavirus anxiety, fear and worry in Katy, TX
So by now you’ve probably heard that the coronavirus has made its way into Harris and Fort Bend county. The panic and coronavirus anxiety in our community seems to have set in. You may be feeling overwhelmed, panicked and anxious. Or you might be feeling ambivalent or just not particularly worried. You are allowed to feel however you are about this, and it’s okay if your feelings differ from someone else. The longer all of this goes on, you’ll likely experience a range of emotions.
That said, it seems that misinformation and hype perpetuated by news and social media outlets is contributing to a frenzied and (sometimes) irrational response. If I’ve learned anything in my nearly 10 years as a counselor, it’s that effective crisis management requires a calm, rational and intentional response.
How to identify and respond appropriately to the actual threats the coronavirus presents
Focus on the facts to manage coronavirus anxiety
Seek out reliable sources to get the most up to date information and guidance about the coronavirus being put forth. The CDC and WHO are two options. Local health departments are another. Here in Katy, most of us probably fall under the jurisdiction of the Fort Bend Health Department or Harris County Health Department.
Stop turning to social media, or even mainstream media for your updates, especially if that’s causing you to feel more anxious and afraid. Look at the recommendations put out by reliable sources for how you can best protect yourself and stay up to date on any new guidance they may issue.
Set healthy limits and maintain self care
Now that we’ve established where to get reliable facts and updates, we need to set some healthy limits around our consumption of information. Often in times of crises like natural disasters, or in this case epidemics, we find ourselves sucked into the constant stream of news, which often plays on a loop, repeating the same information over and over again for anybody who’s willing to listen or read. It’s up to us to set limits around how much time we spend consuming the information.
You decide for yourself what feels right. Maybe it’s a 10-20 minutes reading the latest updates from reliable sources while you sip your coffee in the morning. Or it’s 15 minutes while you wait in the school pick up line each day. If limits aren’t your thing, try cutting yourself off all together and asking your friends, family or partner to alert you of any major developments or changes. There’s no one right way to do this, but if you’re finding yourself sucked into the rabbit hole of information for hours on end, it’s time to set some limits. Don’t let staying informed or up to date interfere with your relationships, sleep or functioning.
During times of crisis it’s important to engage in self care. Make sure you’re doing the things that help you care for yourself, like spending time with friends, exercising or dedicating time to hobbies or things that you do just for fun. Take that bath, take a nap or take a walk.
Practice basic human kindness in the midst of coronavirus anxiety
This one feels like it should go without saying. There have been reports circulating about increased xenophobia and racism against people of Asian decent. In some cases, hospitals have reported that people are stealing hand sanitizer and facemasks putting healthcare workers who are trying to do their jobs to care for sick and injured people, at unnecessary increased risk.
In times of crisis, a little human kindness and treating others with dignity and respect can go a long way. Check on your neighbors, ask the store clerks how they’re doing and maintain communication with your loved ones. Use your ration and logic to take the recommended precautions in public settings to protect yourself and others but stop assuming everyone around you is infected or out to get you. This is not what the reliable sources of information suggest.
Take care of your physical body
Take the recommended precautions to prevent the spread of germs- just like you would to prevent the spread of germs during any other cold and flu season. Wash your hands frequently. Sanitize frequently used surfaces often. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue if you cough or sneeze. Stay home if you’re experiencing any concerning symptoms. Consult a doctor if you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing. If you believe you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or are exhibiting symptoms associated with the virus, contact your local or state health department’s call center. The contact information for such call centers can be found on each county’s health department website.
You should continue to take care of your physical body by exercising regularly, eating a nutritious diet and getting adequate amounts of sleep. Practicing mindfulness and meditation is another way you can care for your physical body. These practices have the added benefit of also helping you regulate and control anxious thoughts and feelings.
As mitigation strategies are implemented in communities, like the cancellation of large events and gatherings or school closures, your normal fitness routine may also be affected. One option for at home wellness is to download a free or low cost meditation or mindfulness app on your phone-Calm and Stop, Breathe and Think are two that I recommend. Another great resource is YouTube where you can find free guided meditation videos that you can do from the comfort of your home. YouTube is also a great place to find free at home work outs.
Communicate with your kids about their coronavirus anxiety
It’s not uncommon for kids to pick up on the stress, fear and anxiety adults around them seem to be feeling, especially during times of crisis. Child Mind Institute offers some helpful tips on how to talk with your children in age appropriate ways about the coronavirus.
Encourage your children share with you anything they’ve heard about the coronavirus. Ask them how that makes them feel. Be prepared to answer questions. Offer reassurance based on the facts we have about coronavirus. Remind them that children seem to be some of the least at risk of catching it. Invite them into the healthy habits and hygiene practices you are adopting as a family. Remind each other to engage in frequent hand washing, cleaning of surfaces and to cover mouths and noses when we cough and sneeze. Try to maintain routine as much as possible. In the case of a closure or cancellation of school or childcare, maintain routine as much as possible. Try to keep a consistent schedule including playtimes, mealtimes, rest times and bed time.
Lastly remember it’s okay to acknowledge that we might not have all the answers right now. We can keep talking about how we’re feeling. Assure them they can ask you questions and share concerns with you as they come up.
Seek professional help for coronavirus anxiety if needed
There is a lot of uncertainty about how the coronavirus pandemic will play out. No one knows when it will come to an end. It’s okay to feel anxious. It’s also important to recognize what you can do to manage your fears and anxiety. Whatever we do, we must regain our ability to stay calm. Continue taking rational measures based on evidence and facts to prevent the spread of germs in order to protect yourself and others.
Professional counseling may be helpful if you feel like your fear is interfering with your functioning or relationships. Anxiety related to healthcare concerns is not uncommon. It also isn’t something that has to continue to entirely disrupt your life.
Check with your existing counselor, or ask any new potential therapist if they offer telehealth or remote sessions. Telehealth has been shown in many cases to be just as helpful and effective as in office therapy. Many counselors are adding telehealth as an option in the wake of the coronavirus, to ensure ongoing access to care for their clients.
Anne Russey Counseling offers treatment for anxiety, postpartum depression treatment, postpartum depression treatment, counseling for moms and LGBTQ+ affirming counseling from her Katy, TX office and online via telehealth sessions.
All of the content provided in this post is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional mental health care or medical treatment.