COVID-19: Addressing anxiety

Tricia Sullivan Borelli, MA, LMHC, Director of Counseling Services

 

Tricia Sullivan Borelli, MA, LMHC, Director of Counseling Services, addresses anxiety associated with the COVID-19 virus.

It is a stressful and overwhelming time for all of us. Whether you’re fearful for yourself or your loved ones or you think the hype is ridiculous, it is interfering with your life. How you respond to this global climate of uncertainty will depend on your background, your own stress tolerance, your resources and support system.

Remember that whatever you are feeling is normal in an abnormal situation. None of us have been through this specific situation before so it is new territory. Common feelings include frustration, anger, confusion, sadness, anxiety, and fear. Specific symptoms of stress during an infectious disease outbreak can also include, but are not limited to, feelings of fear about your health and the health of ones you love, problems with sleeping and/or eating, worry about finances, confusion about travel, and an increase in problematic behaviors like substance use.

Individuals with preexisting mental health conditions are even more susceptible to intense reactions. Taking care of yourself and utilizing your support systems is extremely important.”

During this time of uncertainty and some isolation, here are some things that you can do to support yourself.

  1. Check email! When you get emails, read them in their entirety. Lots of your questions will likely be answered in those emails. This will help avoid spreading non-factual information. Stay in touch with professors and don’t forget to look at updates from Loras.
  2. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to the news including social media. Just like re-watching the pictures of the Twin Towers during 9/11 were upsetting; hearing about the current pandemic repeatedly can be anxiety-provoking. Limit your access to the news. It is good to be informed but you don’t need to be tuned in constantly. Trust me, you will know when something changes.
  3. Take good physical care of yourself. Eat healthy including lots of water and well-balanced meals, clearly avoiding sharing with others. Exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep. Basically do what you should be doing anyway but many of us don’t until winter when we’re trying not to get sick. Also, consider taking a walk outside, when the weather is nice. This is not off limits and may be good for you.
  4. Wash your hands, respect the social distancing rules and don’t think you are immune to the illness. Your actions can still affect yourself and others so even if you are young and healthy, remember that you could carry it to someone who has not been blessed with the same immune system. Be smart and considerate.
  5. Continue to stay in contact with people. Self-quarantine is not the same as self-isolate. Connection is still very important. It is okay to talk with people about the array of emotions that you are experiencing. The tricky part is to avoid panic. Sometimes negative conversations can lead to feelings of hopelessness and more fear. Plan times to engage in conversations. Think about thought-provoking questions that you can discuss the next time you talk. Send memes and inspirations quotes. Laugh. Engage in deep conversations. Consider letter writing to friends. Be creative. Staying in touch is a great way to ward off boredom and loneliness. Email also provides an opportunity to stay in touch with those who are worried about you.
  6. Keep a routine. Stay up on coursework. Don’t use this as a time to slack. Consider getting up when you would be in class anyway. Stay focused on getting coursework done. Routine and structure are good for us and help us with motivation and mood. Consider studying with a friend while Face Timing.
  7. Breathe. As sad as it is to be leaving the physical Loras community for a while, take this time away from campus to unwind and get centered. Consider meditating, yoga and mindfulness to remain in the present and not obsessing about the future. This is a “one day at a time” thing.
  8. Engage in some old activities that you used to enjoy. Consider a hobby that you have been wanting to do for a while. Try knitting, online chess or teaching your dog some new tricks. If you are at home, try playing card games with your siblings or consider re-reading those Harry Potter books you once loved. This time does not have to be a waste.
  9. Remember to pray. Don’t give up hope. God’s grace is most seen and understood in the midst of suffering. We will get through this.
  10. And in regards to ongoing support, don’t forget that Loras is here for you. Contact Counseling Services or the staff/faculty that you are most connected to for ongoing ideas on how to navigate this pandemic. As we all learned in the faculty/staff play last fall, “We are all in this together!”

For more ideas on how to manage your emotions during this time, visit www.virusanxiety.com.

Tricia Sullivan Borelli, MA, LMHC (She/Hers)
Loras College Director of Counseling Services
563.588.7085 | tricia.borelli@loras.edu