With the arrival of Coronavirus (Covid-19) in our city and province it is natural to have some fears and anxieties about the unknown. Our regular routines have been disrupted. Many people are now working from home, children are not in school, and we adjust to the new reality of social distancing and self-isolating. In addition to our day to day changes, we see the provincial economy and world markets take a sharp downturn. We also don’t know what the future will hold at this point. When will we be able to return to work, when will children be able to attend school and when will the social distancing measures ease? What will our world look like in months or years from now? How can we slow the spread of the virus and what will be the impact of this global pandemic? Disruption and uncertainty can cause anxiety and our minds may easily shift to catastrophic thinking. Here are some tips to ensure balance in our lives and a way to manage our anxiety during these uncertain times.
- Understand what is and is not in your control
There are situations with the current pandemic that we cannot control, but we can control our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. First, we can be mindful of the advice from our local, provincial and federal government. Second, we can take the necessary precautions in the community such as physically isolating and ensuring proper hygiene. Finally, using the cognitive-behavioural and mindfulness approach, you can try to notice catastrophic thinking and move your attention to the present moment. It’s a worrying time and many of us will have loved ones who might be affected by this, but the worst case scenarios seldom reflect reality.
- Take time for self-care
This can mean exercise, getting outside to go for a walk, or even breathing and grounding exercises. Exercise has been empirically proven to improve mood and relieve stress. Try to create space for it right now. You can challenge your friends to keep an exercise or a self-care routine and update each other over messages and social media. You can also do it solo. Just take time to move and do something you really enjoy.
- Limit exposure to health related news
Constantly checking our phones for updates on health news and the world situation can heighten anxiety. Try to allocate a set amount of time each day to consume this type of content and think about it constructively. You can choose a time of the day when you are most alert and focused. Avoid the pandemic related articles first thing in the morning and close to bed time, and plan to turn off news and technology after a certain hour of the day. Choose reliable sources of information and avoid forums and message boards. Finally, try to be mindful of the urge to google your symptoms. Instead, call the Health Line at 811 or use the Self-Assessment Tool for Coronavirus symptoms offered by the Government of Saskatchewan.
4. Practice Self-Compassion and Compassion Towards Others
Self-compassion can help when our anxiety is high. Be mindful of your thoughts and feelings around the virus and its impact, and acknowledge how you are behaving as a result. Do you have discomfort in your body or unproductive thoughts that get caught up in a negative loop? Observe these feelings and experiences and take the time to be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that others may feel as you do, and that this is part of our common humanity at this time. You are doing your best right now. At the same time, keep in mind that other people may be experiencing stress and suffering in their own ways. Consider extending kindness towards others.
- Silver Linings
Try to look at the pandemic from a different perspective and envision how this time of struggle can also be a time for growth, self-perspective and opportunity. Perhaps it’s a time to rely less on technology and to focus on helping others who are more vulnerable during this time. This may be our opportunity to spend quality time with immediate family, reconnect with friends and family, find a new hobby, learn something new, and set goals for the future when life returns to more normalcy.
Luke Froese, BA, BSW, RSW
Looking for additional support at this difficult time? Try an online or phone counselling session.