Dealing with Anxiety in the Age of Corona

March 27, 2020

Looking for more self care articles? Be sure to check out this post on self care here!

Y'all know I love fun, colorful, whimsical content. But in today's ever changing environment, I would be doing you guys a disservice if I wasn't churning out some content that might help deal with what is going on in the world these days. Even if only one person reads this, if they can take something away from it that is helpful in any way at all, that matters to me.

So by now, we're all probably sick of hearing about COVID-19, but unfortunately it is unavoidable: it's everywhere! It's absolutely terrifying, and for someone who already stresses out on a regular basis about normal everyday issues like cleaning the house & being on time for appointments, layering a debilitating, life threatening, incredibly contagious disease on top of that is a recipe for a panic attack (or 5).

I've been having a hard time dealing with this lately, as our country gets deeper & deeper into this pandemic. With each new harrowing first hand account I come across splashed onto my Facebook feed, I spiral further into a very dark place very quickly. My heart races, my chest starts to feel heavy and tight, my head throbs, I get chills: oh god, do I have it? Is this the start of it? What if I have it but I don't realize it until its too late? What if I die alone in a hospital and can't see my family? What is going to happen?!?

I should mention that I am also probably a bit of a hypochondriac (thank you, motherhood). The slightest cough or headache even before all this mess sent me into a deep dive of the worst kind of thoughts (do not, under any circumstances, ever google your symptoms. Dr. Google will either tell you that you have heartburn...or terminal cancer). That being said, this whole pandemic thing really does a number on your mental health. And fun fact: if you freak the fuck out too much, you can actually manifest physical symptoms, like chest pressure...which really only feeds the viscous cycle. Since I have been struggling lately, I have sought out some different methods to deal with the anxiety of it all. So I've put together a little list of the 10 things that have helped me so far.

1. F r e s h   A i r

Social distancing, isolation, and quarantine don't have to mean you are cooped up inside 24/7 (well, for most of us anyway). Take time out of your day to go outside for some fresh air. Sit on your porch or deck, go in your backyard, take a walk around the neighborhood, or even venture out to a state park (provided you keep your distance from anyone else who may be out). Here in Chattanooga, there is a flower business that has a standalone flower stand where you can pick up a bouquet to brighten your day and drop your money in the lockbox (or Venmo!) without any person to person contact. I like to keep fresh flowers on hand to bring a little bit of the outdoors inside (they smell divine. Plus, if you don't like flowers, there's something wrong with you). We also like to go for short walks in the woods or go at odd times to the park when we think less people will be out (though these days, it's really just a ghost town everywhere). Being out in nature reminds us that there is a whole world still going on out there outside of this virus - and that gives me hope.

2. V i r t u a l   S o c i a l   I n t e r a c t i o n
I will say one thing: if this pandemic was destined to happen, I'm glad it happened in the age of technology. Quarantining and practicing self-isolation would be a whole lot harder if we couldn't text our BFF or FaceTime our parents & grandparents to check in (also: Netflix). So if you're feeling anxious or worried - talk it out! I essentially had a mental breakdown the other day when a work-bomb dropped on me at a time when I was already particularly vulnerable due to some health issues I've been having, so everything culminated in one hell of a freakout. Luckily, I have some wonderfully supportive & understanding friends who put things into perspective for me (I am also really thankful I have nurse friends who put up with my constant hypochondriac tendencies & reassure me that I'm not dying. Sarah T., I owe you Taco Bell).

3. Y o g a   &   B r e a t h i n g    E x e r c i s e s
This has really helped relax me. I have been adding some gentle yoga to my night routine (this 12 minute wind down session is a favorite of mine) before bed and it really mellows me out, and I have seen a change for the better in my sleep as a result. When I have the time (because quarantine looks a lot different when you are trying to still work a job remotely and entertain a 2 year old at the same time), I will do a 30 or 45 minute session, usually from YouTube. Be sure to check your local yoga studios' and gyms' social media - a ton of places are now offering up live virtual sessions!

4. A V O I D.  T H E.  N E W S.

Say it with me guys: avoid the news! Ok, one more time all together now: avoid the news! Ok, this is probably not realistic because it's literally everywhere, but you can absolutely limit your exposure. If it's all over your Facebook, scroll past. If it's on TV, change the channel. While it's important to stay updated on what is going on in our country, there's a big difference between being informed and being obsessed. If all you are watching is the news and reading through countless articles online, you will literally go crazy with worry. Keep things in perspective: yes, it is happening, but there are things we can control and things we can't. A very wise snowman once said: We're calling this "controlling what you can when things feel out of control." (All my fellow parents & Disney fans know what I'm talking about).

5. C B D   O I L 
Everyone has their opinions about this, but if you ask me, it works. There have been studies that have touted it as a promising treatment for both depression and anxiety, because of its ability to tap into the brain's receptors for serotonin (which helps to regulate mood and behavior). In my experience, it just relaxes me and takes the edge off, much like a glass of really good wine. Which brings me to...

6. W I N E
If you're not a CBD person, try wine. I'm not saying go out & start downing bottles of vino, but a glass in the evening might help. You can even combine this with several others on this list: virtual wine girls nights anyone? (I've done it. They're fun!) Honestly, wine and bedtime yoga sounds pretty relaxing too!

7. F I N D   Y O U R   H A P P Y
For me, that's anything & everything Disney. I'm a Disney fanatic: I go to Disney a ton (it's always my vacation destination of choice), I watch the movies, I listen to the music, and I have an extensive array of clothing featuring various Disney-related things. It brings me (& my toddler) joy. So in a time when everything is uncertain, I surround myself with the things that make me happy. This will look different for everyone, but the point is to focus on what you love. Throw yourself into your hobby, learn something new, pour your heart out onto paper. Whatever it is that moves your spirit and makes it soar, do more of that.

8. R E S T
This one seems obvious, but for the mind that is constantly racing with negative thoughts and a never-ending stream of "What ifs" it really isn't so easy. If you find that you have been having trouble sleeping, try some of the aforementioned methods (gentle yoga before bed is a great place to start - or even just mindful breathing in a quiet room, with spa music playing). The point is to make your evenings as relaxing as possible, to promote a great sleep. Don't scroll through Instagram for an hour right before bed (guilty) if you want a solid night's rest. Put down the phone, get comfortable, maybe play some sounds of the ocean, and clear your mind of negative thoughts. Turn down the headspace noise and focus on your well being.

9. T A K E   A   B A T H
This also is helpful in promoting great sleep! I like to make my bathtime a whole ritual, an experience if you will. I get out the wine, I light candles/set mood lighting, and I pull out all the bath products. There are so many great ones out there to enhance bathtime and there's literally bath soaks and salts and bombs all for different needs - stress relief being a major one. Find one that works for you and really enjoy your quiet time (then again, I won't judge you if you have your phone propped up in a towel on the toilet so you can watch Netflix from the bath - been there). 

10. C R Y 
Yes, cry. Go ahead. Let yourself be completely vulnerable. It is 100% OK. Sometimes all of that emotion, stress, and anxiety builds up and has to come out. Think of your anxiety like a tea kettle. Whatever it is that is stressing you out just starts to bubble up slowly and before you know it, you're whistling with steam coming out of your ears. All that energy has to go somewhere. Crying it out is honestly a great way to relieve some of that tension. Whether you need someone else's shoulder or to be held, or just to do it on your own in solice - it's your method. I'm one of those people that can't cry in front of people. I just can't. I don't like people to see me cry or be visibly upset. So I tend to do it in private, when I'm alone (the shower is a favorite) and that's fine too. Trust me - you will feel better after.

So there you have it - my 10 tips for relieving all that pent up anxiety. I'm no doctor here, so I'm only speaking to what methods I have personally found that work for me. I hope that there are a few items on this list that you will find helpful as well! 

Stay safe out there, guys! (And wash your hands!!!)

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