Managing Anxiety and Depression During COVID-19

A few months ago, most of us had never even heard of the terms Coronavirus or COVID-19. We were carrying on with our normal day to day lives, buying groceries, going to work, and worrying about the next social event on our calendars. Little did we know that in a few short months, our world was going to be turned upside down by a pandemic. Today, we are concerned about having enough toilet paper, job security, and loved ones being infected with this virus that is rocking our country. The things that have felt constant and steady in our lives suddenly feel shaky and uncertain. None of us knows how long this pandemic will last and how many lives will be affected by its relentless attack on our world. Emotions are heightened as we fear, worry, and dread all that is going on around us. We can wash and sanitize our hands again and again to wash germs away, but we cannot wash away the feelings and emotions that are whirling around inside of us.

For individuals with anxiety and depression, this is an especially scary time. It is estimated that about ⅓ of Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder. These people with diagnosed anxiety disorders, have anxiety that is currently exploding, and those of us who generally don’t suffer from anxiety are most likely experiencing it at new levels. So what can we do to deal with this sudden surge of anxiety that most of us are experiencing?

  1. Practice Acceptance.
    This means that we accept the fact that we feel anxious. When most people begin to feel anxious, they begin thinking about the fact that they are anxious, which sends them into a downward spiral as these thoughts race around, propelling them into a state of panic. Acceptance is the opposite of this. It is stopping and acknowledging the fact that you feel anxious. It’s pausing and saying, “You know what, I feel anxious, and I have no idea what is going to happen.” Breaking the cycle of panic is key, so give yourself the grace to accept that you are struggling with feelings of anxiousness. Acceptance is the first step in the right direction.
  2. Do the opposite of what your anxiety is telling you to do.
    For example, when you are anxious, you may be taking short breaths and breathing quickly. Instead, take deep, long breaths and count to 4 each time you inhale and exhale. If your anxiety is telling you to hole up in your house, go outside and walk instead. If your anxiety is telling you to binge on junk food and TV, then make a healthy food choice and journal instead.
  3. Practice mindfulness.
    Mindfulness means being present in the moment. It is taking the time to be thankful for the present moment. In times of crisis, most of us begin the “what if” game. We begin to worry about the future and things that are out of our control. Mindfulness is being present in the moment and not as concerned about the future and the things that we cannot control.
  4. Journal, pray, and talk with friends.
    Anxiety often stems from not getting thoughts and feelings out. Taking time to journal and pray or talk to a trusted friend about your feelings gives you an avenue to release the thoughts and feelings that you’re bottling up inside, releasing that anxiety.

Not only are those with anxiety struggling, but those with depression are also having a difficult time dealing with our current circumstances. As we are all encouraged to socially distance ourselves from others, this can pose a real problem to those who already feel down and isolated. We are constantly encouraging those with depression to get out and around people. So, what can those with depression do during this time to help manage those feelings?

  • Take extra steps to connect with people virtually.
    • Schedule 2-3 video chats or phone calls with people daily. Use these times to talk to your family and friends and stay connected. This will greatly help with those feelings of isolation.
  • Get outside and walk.
    • Take time to walk your dog or walk around your neighborhood. This will give you an opportunity to see people’s faces, even if from a distance.
  • Make a daily schedule.
    • Many people with depression feel lost and like they lack purpose. Having a consistent schedule or routine, will help you to feel productive and give you a sense of purpose. For example, at 10:00 everyday, you might facetime with your best friend, and then at 11:00 you might read for 30 minutes.

If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, and these suggestions are not helping you to manage your symptoms, please give our office a call at 912-319-5552. Our therapists continue to see clients through TeleHealth/Online Counseling during this time. We would love to get you scheduled to help you navigate through this difficult time in our world. We are here for you!