By Dr. Vintee Narang
As a community, we are under a great deal of pressure these days. Life outside of work has become increasingly stressful, and we often find ourselves worrying about the well-being of our loved ones as well as our own personal safety. Being flooded with news updates on our cell phones, computers and televisions compounds this pressure and increases our daily stress levels.
We’ve all been affected by this viral pandemic in some way, and we are being asked to make sacrifices in our daily lives for the greater good of society. During these difficult and uncertain times, it is very important that we take good care of our mental health to ensure we’ll be able to continue to give the best of ourselves to the people who need us.
Anxiety comes from a lack of control of a situation or fear of the unknown. The world of is full of this uncertainty right now. However, we can keep our anxiety levels down by adopting some simple coping strategies, which will help to modify cognitive distortions and help prevent us from adopting a catastrophic thought process.
To help mitigate the unknown, one can gather information regarding the current situation and how best to stay prepared and remain calm. It is advised to pick one reliable source of information, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov or the World Health Organization at www.who.int, rather than peruse various sites or sources.
Also, it is best not to stay glued to the news coverage throughout the day. Instead, set reasonable limits on the total amount of time spent viewing the news — whether that is on television or on the internet. Without setting limits for ourselves and the loved ones in our care, we run the risk of creating a negative mindset.
On a similar note, limit social media updates and mobile reminders regarding the coronavirus as this can contribute to feelings of anxiety and despair. Start with local updates regarding area schools, businesses and activities rather than constantly focusing on international updates.
Lowering Anxiety Levels
Here are some simple steps you can take to help lower your daily anxiety levels:
Have a contingency plan in place. Being proactive and taking charge of “what-if” thinking can reduce the anxiety that is a natural part of dealing with the unknown.
Implement coping mechanisms. Use those that have helped you in the past.
Accept negative feelings. Acknowledge these, such as through journaling. Inability to express these feelings can lead to long-term anxiety or depression.
Get regular, daily exercise. A brisk walk or an at-home workout can do wonders to relieve stress.
Eat a balanced diet consisting of plenty of fruits, vegetables and water.
Reach out to your support system. This might include your medical provider, family members and friends.
Focus on getting plenty of restful sleep and practice good sleep hygiene techniques.
Coping with Stress
Here are some other coping mechanisms that can be incorporated into our daily lives:
Breathing techniques. Deep breathing helps you think more clearly and relieves muscle tension. Slowly inhale through your nose. Hold it for a moment and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this breathing exercise three times whenever you start to feel overwhelmed or stressed. It will help calm and refocus the mind. Try to stand still, sit down, or even lie down as you focus on your breathing.
Meditation and/or yoga. You can meditate through breathing, mantras or an app such as Headspace
Mindfulness. Cope by focusing on the current moment. Begin to identify exactly what is going on around you, what emotions you are feeling, what you are thinking, and how your body feels without trying to stop the flow.
Grounding exercises. Try one of these: Identify five colors around you, focus on something nearby that is completely new to you, or close your eyes and identify what you hear.
A change of environment and physical distance. This can help you cope by relieving some of the stress and tension you feel. Try taking a walk.
Regular physical activity. This can help release built-up energy, tension and stress. Schedule some at-home workouts, which can boost your mood, or try running.
Social media. Use this as a form of enjoyment and for support. Facetime/Skype/group chats can provide a way to connect with friends and family. However, it is important to set reasonable limits on your daily use of social media.
Dr. Vintee Narang a psychiatrist at Community Health Centers in Forest City, earned a medical degree from Ross University School of Medicine in Miramar, Florida. She completed her residency at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-University Hospital and her fellowship at Brookdale Hospital Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. The behavioral health team at the Community Health Centers is available at 407-905-8827.