This month I’m utilizing some great advice from a colleague and friend (Dr. Erin Westfall) regarding anxiety and distress management tools and strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
· Limit your exposure to news updates, once or twice a day for 30 minutes or less is plenty. It is typically better to do this early in your day rather than near your bedtime.
· Turn to reliable and reputable sources of information such as the
Center for Disease Control (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html)
MN Department of Health (https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/)
Mayo Clinic (https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/category/covid-19/)
Limit use of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. While these sites can be the source of valuable information, they are also susceptible to stories that spread rumors and fear.
Focus on what you can control – including behaviors. Do what you can to reduce your risk such as staying at home as much as possible, social distancing and hand washing.
Create a regular routine. This includes a consistent schedule for starting your day, eating meals and going to bed. Maintaining a healthy diet and getting restful sleep can reduce stress. Anxiety thrives in large amounts of unstructured time. Our mind naturally wants to put order to things and when we don’t provide that structure, it tends to spiral out.
Get some exercise every day. This helps your immune system, is a good way to manage stress and facilitates better sleep. Some local gyms offer live workout sessions. There are many free exercise routines on YouTube and other platforms. If you can get outside to move your body, that’s even better! Spending time in nature can be very calming.
Stay connected. Using technology such as Facetime and Zoom allows you to see faces of friends and loved ones which can help combat loneliness or isolation from staying at home.
Use or try out meditation or other mindfulness strategies. These can be used in small ‘doses’ every day to help improve focus and concentration as well as calm the mind. There are a variety of apps you can try out for free including: Headspace (https://www.headspace.com/); Stop, Breath, Think (https://www.stopbreathethink.com/); 10% Happier (https://www.tenpercent.com/).
Our brain’s negativity bias: Our brain is wired to pay more attention to the bad rather than the good. Constantly reading headlines or talking about infection, risk, and death fuels our fear. We can counter this by being intentional in looking for and noticing the good. Write down 3 things you are grateful for each day; pay attention to the sights, sounds, smells while out walking or spending time in nature.
Together we can be a healthier community.
God Bless – Joe Flynn, PharmD