-DJ Spigener, LMHC
Only a few years ago, many of us would have balked at the idea that large sections of our country (and the world at large) would need to shut down temporarily in efforts to halt the spread of a novel and highly contagious virus. The thought of wearing a mask every single day – rather than just on Halloween! – might have seemed absurd. But as we approach the end of 2021, many of these strange and unusual circumstances have become commonplace. With so much anxiety and uncertainty surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, how can we try to find peace and relaxation in the midst of it all? Here are a few helpful tips for coping with this type of anxiety:
1. Focus on the aspects of your life that you can control. When confronted with situations that seem uncontrollable, such as a global pandemic that affects our daily lives, it can be helpful to refocus our efforts on the things we can control. Implementing and maintaining healthy habits, routines, and choices can help us to feel empowered and stable, rather than helpless or chaotic. Some controllable areas of life you may want to put more focus into could include nutrition, exercise, sleep, hygiene, or finances. Putting effort into these areas, which we have the power to change and affect even during a pandemic, is much more fruitful and fulfilling than putting that effort into trying to control things we have no power over.
2. Lean into uncertainty and accept it. Uncertainty is a fact of life. While we may prefer to have a structured, time-sensitive, predictable life all the time, this is just not realistic for most. Rather than fighting to resist uncertainty or trying to force circumstances to be the way we may wish, try accepting that some uncertainty is simply unavoidable. While regular personal research and education can help to minimize uncertainty and anxiety about the unknown, there is a point where excessively reading or viewing materials related to the COVID-19 pandemic (and associated topics) will begin to negatively impact our mental and emotional state. Give yourself a break from this constant barrage of dramatic and often fear-inducing material by accepting uncertainty and choosing to spend some of your time doing other things.
3. Do not allow yourself to become isolated. With quarantines, stay-at-home orders, social distancing rules, and mask mandates all becoming a part of our reality since the beginning of this pandemic, it can seem difficult to maintain social relationships with friends, family, or co-workers. Many of the opportunities we might have had to visit and socialize may no longer arise, whether due to personal safety concerns, private business rights, or governmental oversight. While social media serves as a substitute for many, the psychological benefits of personal, direct interaction with friends and loved ones vastly outweigh those of social media. In fact, excessive use of social media while neglecting personal relationships can lead to increased feelings of anxiety, fear, depression, and isolation. As with Tip #2, try to give yourself a reasonable and realistic limit on how much time you spend engaging with social media.