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3 Insights Into COVID-19 Anxiety From Someone Who's Anxious All the Time

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I have chronic general anxiety. It’s exactly what it sounds like: I am anxious. All the time. About many, many things. The latest of which is: COVID-19 — a new form of coronavirus which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Countries like Italy are still on lockdown. Students have been sent home from school. Almost everyone’s routine has changed in some way as we practice social distancing to try and stop the spread.

As someone who deals with general anxiety on a daily basis, I have my routine down to a tee. My years of work in therapy gave me a toolbox of tips for when I start to spiral: I do my deep breaths, do my grounding exercises, drink water… the usual tools to tame down my usual panic.

But what happens when everyone else is panicking too?

I am struggling to write this article, even though I have written so many so far. Why? Because I am still trying to come to terms with what is happening to the world; sorting through my own feelings; and trying to manage my anxiety in a world and environment that is constantly changing and throwing me new things to panic about.

It is hard to articulate, but here are a few things I have learned about myself and my anxiety:

1. I understand why people panic shop. 

You’ve been seeing it all over the news — people panic buying, cleaning out shelves of toilet paper, lysol and canned foods. They’re scared. I am too. And as “controversial” as this may sound — I understand it. Just as with internal panicking (re: panic attacks), you do what you can to ground yourself. A physical or mental activity to show that you have control over your current situation.

And that’s exactly what people are doing. They are trying to control what they can. And they find comfort in knowing they won’t run out of toilet paper; they can clean their countertop; wash their hands. People who normally don’t panic do not have the skill set to monitor and maintain their fear spirals because they’ve never had to do it before. So in response, they grasp for what is within reach — things that give them that (false) sense of control (hoarding toilet paper and Tylenol won’t prevent COVID-19… it just leads to price gauging and feeds into hysteria).

I don’t agree with it. But I understand it.

2. Reach out to your support system, but know everyone needs to take care of themselves, too.

By support system, I don’t mean your healthcare professionals. I mean your friends, parents, cousins, coworkers. People you normally turn to when you need a sounding board or reassurance. But in times of pandemic, it might be harder for them to help you. Because just like on an aircraft, they have to help themselves first. They are panicking and their friends are panicking and their family is panicking and they have to take care of themselves first.

Try to not take it personally when they say that they can’t talk about it with you, whether it’s the latest DIY cleaning hack or what immunity boosting foods we should all be eating. Head here for tips if you’re feeling unsupported.

3. Self-isolation doesn’t mean you are alone.

As countries are imposing travel bans and closing commercial spaces, we are all urged to stay away from crowds. These strict rules and guidelines are scary because it almost feels as though we’re condemning ourselves to solitary confinement. While I’m sure you can find lots of other articles online about how to use your self-isolation to be productive and gear it towards self-care, please keep in mind that you are not alone.

  • Have video chat dinner dates. You may be in separate locations, but prep and eat your meals together. Video chat and talk and tell stories — just as you would if you were in a restaurant together.
  • Call your friends and family. I know it’s rare that many of us pick up the phone to speak, so now may be a good time to pick up and call instead of text. Exercise those vocal cords!
  • Join an online community! Share recipes, anti-inflammatory smoothies, DIY crafts projects, at-home workouts… you name it, I can guarantee that there are others out there who want to chat and exchange creative ideas.
  • Call your therapist. While many therapists may have a general policy that they only do in-person sessions, special circumstances call for flexibility, understanding and alternative solutions. Check with your therapist to see if they are willing to do video or phone sessions with you so you’re not alone without any professional support.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. And stay Mighty.

Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles:

Getty image via Kwangmoozaa

Originally published: April 5, 2023
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