Heading off coronavirus anxiety

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Feeling increased anxiety due to the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is not unusual. When looking at the news and social media outlets, it becomes clear that this illness continues to spread worldwide. Travel, sports, shopping centers and schools are just a few of the areas that have shut down in an attempt to reduce risking “social spread” of COVID-19.

In order to slow down the transmission, companies have asked their employees to stay home or work from home. This is an ever-evolving situation, and with each change one’s sense of powerlessness or lack of control can escalate.
You may find that you are experiencing fear, worry, panic, anger and depression. Your sleep may be impaired, and you may find yourself on edge.

There are some things that you can do to reduce the severity of your anxiety and fear. One of the first things you want to do is make sure you are getting accurate information; the MN Department of Health is a good resource.
Although you want to remain informed, don’t overload yourself by watching the news constantly. This will only fuel your sense of panic.

Beware of scam artists, particularly online, who are promoting products that they say will prevent or treat the COVID-19. In Los Angeles, custom officials found a shipment of fake COVID-19 test kits a few days ago that were coming in from the United Kingdom.

Self-care measures
This is a time to take good care of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. Eating nutritious foods, remaining active, and getting enough sleep are at the top of the list for taking care of yourself physically.

When you are feeling stressed, the body responds by releasing cortisol, which is also known as the “stress hormone.” The reason it is important to manage your stress is because over time, cortisol can negatively impact your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness

Taking care of yourself mentally includes stress management techniques such as relaxation, meditation, yoga, exercise or listening to music. It is important to take time to unwind and engage in activities that you enjoy while at home.

We have between 40,000 to 60,000 thoughts each day. When we become preoccupied with negative or pessimistic thoughts, this can lead to anxiety as well as depression (happify.com). This website has a list of several techniques to reduce negative thought patterns. One technique that is easy to incorporate into our daily life is to identify the positives in your life by making a gratitude list.

Because it has been recommended that people use “social distancing,” access to normal religious activities may be reduced. With COVID-19, the recommendation has been to avoid being around more than 10 people. As a result, some religious groups have temporarily closed houses of worship until further notice.

For some, connecting to a Power greater than yourself can lead to some relief from fear and anxiety and instill hope. Some find prayer and listening to spiritual music to be comforting. You can access spiritual and religious services either online, on radio or on television. You can maintain contact with those in your worship home or spiritual group by phone, text or email.

For those who are recovering from substance use disorders, this can be a time of increased risk for relapse. Many 12 Step meetings are no longer having regular meetings. The contact number to see where meetings are still available is below. There are online 12 Step meetings and groups that can be accessed for support.

As more and more people are choosing to quarantine, a sense of loneliness or isolation can increase. Parents may find themselves overwhelmed with work, home, and having children home due to school closures. Children sometimes respond to stress with irritability, mood swings, crying, anxiety, fear and “clinginess.”

You will want to reduce their exposure to information about COVID-19 on TV and the internet. It is important that you provide your children with accurate information and comfort. For “10 Tips for Talking with your Kids about COVID-19,” go here.

If you or a loved one are having difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in your chest, experiencing confusion or are difficult to rouse, or have blue lips or face, call 911.

Disclaimer: This is not to be taken as medical advice. Please follow up with your local health department, primary care provider, or the MN Department of Health for current information about COVID-19.

Available COVID-19 Resources

Hotlines
Community mitigation (schools, child care, business) questions:
651-297-1304 or 1-800-657-3504
7 am to 7 pm

Health questions
651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903
7 am to 7 pm
MN Department of Health
651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903
7 am to 7 pm
www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/basics.html

Mental Health Crisis
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-8255
Crisis Text Line: Text MN to 74141
Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team (COPE): 612-596-1223
Substance Use Disorder resources:
Alcoholics Anonymous support 24/7: 952-922-0880.
Narcotics Anonymous 24/7: (877) 767-7676 TOLL-FREE
NorthPoint Health and Wellness 612-543-2500

About Dr. Deirdre Golden

Dr. Deirdre Golden, director of behavioral health at NorthPoint Health & Wellness, welcomes reader responses to 612-543-2705.

View all posts by Dr. Deirdre Golden →