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“How to Stay Sane during COVID-19”: Tips for Reducing Anxious Thoughts and Fear

By Cassandra Lenza, LCSW, CEDS, RYT

2020 has surely been a rollercoaster of emotions thus far, and it is only March- What a time to be alive! For many of us, who usually keep a status-quo, drama-free, or routined life, the Coronavirus crisis can (and most likely, has) stirred up emotions including anxiety, fear, and distress. During this time of uncertainty, we need to be extra gentle with ourselves, implementing what we can do to reduce stress. Here are my top ten tips for staying sane during COVID-19:

  1. First and foremost, “Check the facts.” This is a common phrase used to help combat anxious thoughts. Educate yourself on what you can do to prevent the spread, or “flatten the curve” of cases in our country. Find information from trusted sources, such as the CDC, the State, or the city of Hoboken, on effective practices. Try to avoid opinion pieces, blogs, or social media posts, whereby information may be emotion-based, or subjective, rather than fact-based, or objective.

  2. Let go of trying to answer the “unknowns.” During times of uncertainty, it is common for your thoughts to drift off to the unknowns. Thoughts such as “When will this end?”, “Where will I go if things continue on this way?” or “What if I contract the virus?” are thoughts steeped in fear. Try to recognize your “W” thoughts - the “what if,” the “where,” or the “when” - these are thought clues that you are experiencing anxiety. Take a deep breath, write these thoughts down to let them out, and recognize that the answers are simply not available to you, right this moment.

  3. Ask yourself, What CAN I control in this moment? Still need to get to the store for some non-perishables? Always wanted to get into an at-home yoga practice? Have grand plans to write a book? The best antidote for losing control, is seeking control in positive, encouraging ways. First, get prepared and get supplies. Do all you can to feel safe. But then, take some time for what excites you. This is a fantastic time to get to things that interest you. Feeling capable and accomplished is extremely valuable to your mental health, especially in times of stress.

  4. Reduce catastrophizing - A.K.A. thinking the worst. There is no use in indulging the worst-case scenario thoughts. While it is easy to get wrapped up in potential catastrophes, when your brain goes to the “what if it all goes wrong?,” try to redirect your thoughts to “what if we put this all behind us?” Thinking positively takes as much time as thinking negatively. Spend your time wisely.

  5. Consider reducing screen time, news exposure, or social media use.- So chances are you’ve educated yourself. Maybe here is a good place to stop. Too much information can be over-stimulating. Our brains can stop processing information rationally. If your fears are becoming overwhelming, it is okay to step back from the news, take a break, and focus on you.

  6. Set better boundaries with those who trigger fear - It is possible that you may have people around you who are making you feel even more anxious and afraid. Consider removing yourself from the group chat if the information is becoming overwhelming, or asking others from refraining from dumping their fears onto you. Boundaries are so important- even in times of crisis - and it is okay to say “no” if it all becomes too much.

  7. Wake up with a grateful heart. Prayer, meditation, doing a few sun salutations, or merely taking a few deep breaths in the morning, can all be incredible grounding exercises to take during this time. These measures upon waking give us all a few moments to plug into this reality, our new reality, in a hopeful and positive way.

  8. Self care, self care, self care. Eating well, nourishing our bodies, doing a face mask, and gentle exercise, can all keep our endorphins and positive vibes flowing. And we all use them right now!

  9. It’s OK to not be OK. Admittedly, it’s a really scary time, and it’s okay if you find yourself struggling to stay afloat. Know there is no right way to handle a crisis, and you can only do the best that you can. However, you can ALWAYS...

  10. Reach out to a mental health professional. We have been trained in crisis management, and are here for you if you find yourself needing more support. Many of us Hoboken therapists are still accepting new patients, offering virtual sessions, and even jumping on quick phone calls to help process and cope with COVID-19.

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