Hi, I’m Elizabeth Essman, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor at Thriveworks in Waltham, Massachusetts. To answer the question, “how do I overcome my anxiety during Covid?,” which is a great question by the way, we first have to learn to identify what our symptoms of anxiety are and then we can talk about how to manage those symptoms.
Since there are a lot of changes going on in the world right now, and many of those changes are out of our control, it’s important to be able to focus on what is in our control and how we respond to what we are feeling. So let’s talk about some anxiety symptoms lots of people may be experiencing right now due to Covid.
One common symptom of anxiety is ruminating thoughts. This means that a thought gets stuck in your head and you just can’t seem to focus on other things without that thought getting in the way. So an example of what this might look like is you’re trying to complete a task, a work related or academic, while working from home, but you just can’t stop thinking about the Covid crisis and you’re unable to get your work done at all. You’re not alone here if you’re experiencing these thoughts.
You might almost be having “what if” thoughts. These would look like, “What if I’m sick? What if I can’t pay my bills? What if I lose loved ones? What if I don’t have a job after all this?” All of those thoughts are normal thoughts to be having during this crisis. However, people with anxiety are unable to turn these thoughts off in their minds. So the thoughts just keep playing over and over, which can lead to excessive worrying.
Some other symptoms of anxiety might be upset stomach or appetite or sleep disturbance. Maybe a routine is interrupted and you haven’t been eating well or feeling hungry, or maybe you’ve been staying up late watching the news or experiencing those ruminating or what if thoughts before bed and you just can’t fall asleep or stay asleep like you normally would. You might also be feeling on edge or overwhelmed, unable to focus, or maybe you’re avoiding certain tasks altogether.
The tricky thing with anxiety is that it can be exhausting. Experiencing these symptoms while trying to keep up with life can be tough. So it’s important to first identify what symptoms you may be having and then develop strategies to alleviate the symptoms in order to gain control over your feelings. I say alleviate because it can be difficult to make symptoms go away completely, especially in a time of crisis. The goal would be to accept the feelings and thoughts and anxiety that you’re having and then learn to manage and cope with them in a healthy, productive way.
So how does someone do that? I’m going to go over five ways to help manage potential symptoms of anxiety. First, reach out for support. This could be your Thriveworks counselor, family, friends, professors, online communities, neighbors, really anyone you’re comfortable talking with. Remember, you don’t have to worry a lot. Share your thoughts and feelings. Don’t keep them to yourself as they’ll continue to build and feed off of each other.
Next, create a healthy routine. This will help with nutrition and sleep as your body will begin to form new healthy habits. Sometimes writing down goals for the day, even if they’re small, such as making your bed or showering. Then being able to cross those off your lists can create positive thinking and help reduce some symptoms. Maybe you can go for a walk, a loved one, cook a new meal, read a book, catch up on laundry, take a nap.
Create a routine that will help replenish the energy your anxiety has been absorbing. Also, be mindful to avoid creating unhealthy routines such as using substances to manage symptoms of anxiety or spending an excessive amount of time watching the news. Next, check in with yourself and your feelings frequently. It’s easy to want to avoid those uncomfortable feelings we’re having, but unfortunately the symptoms are not going to go away unless we do something about them.
So acknowledging that it’s okay to be feeling anxious and then identify the specific symptoms you’re feeling. Think about what has or hasn’t worked in trying to manage those symptoms. Talking to someone you love, going for a walk, meditating, reading a book, taking a nap, cooking that new meal. Try to check in with yourself when you wake up to determine how you’re feeling and how to make a plan for if you do start to experience anxiety throughout the day.
Also, check in with yourself when you go to bed. Evaluate how the day went and what you might want to do differently or the same tomorrow to help manage your anxiety. Next, utilize available tools. There are tons of online resources or apps available to provide you with ways to reduce symptoms of anxiety. These resources may include tools such as meditation or mindfulness techniques or guided reflections, biofeedback, calming coloring activities, journal prompts, or you can build a support group or community through online connecting with others.
Working with a counselor can also be really helpful during this time because they can help you identify specific tools that might work just for you. And next, keep in mind: remember, you’ve gotten through all your worst days so far. Humans are strong and resilient, and you’re not alone to be experiencing symptoms of anxiety right now. Remember, a lot of people are going through a similar experience.
We’re here for you at Thriveworks. We know not all days might not be good days right now, and that’s okay. It doesn’t always have to be good, but we can try and make it better for you. If you need someone to talk to, please reach out. Many locations are offering telehealth services and we’re working hard with insurance companies to get those services covered for you.
Some insurance companies are even waving the copays for online counseling services. So if you’re unsure about counseling, please reach out, speak to someone, and we can get you set up with a counselor. We’re here to help.