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What to Do When Pandemic Anxiety Affects Your Behavior

If you’ve been more anxious than usual, you’re not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased anxiety and panic for many. To avoid the cascading effects, there are are few useful things you can try to help yourself lessen the symptoms. 

Acknowledge that almost everyone is scared or uncertain

The pandemic has most individuals worrying about many things: will I fall ill? Will I lose a loved one? Lose my job or savings? It is challenging to respond individually and as a community to these difficult challenges and questions. 

What we do know is that we’re all scared sometimes, especially when now. Fear is biological and meant to keep us safe from harm. Even if measures are taken to lessen threats, anxiety can continue to occur because our body and brain are attempting to keep us vigilant and keep us safe. 

Anxiety is a normal response and part of being human. By sharing our worries and fears with others, we can find reassurance that we are not alone in our fears. When we listen to each other, we can find ways to cope and overcome anxious thoughts. 

It’s really hard to be stuck at home

If you’ve had to quarantine or social distance at home the last few months, going stir-crazy likely doesn’t describe how you’re feeling. Even if the weather is nice and you’re able to be safe outdoors, many are feeling the effects of a lack of connection with others. Being isolated is hard, especially if you see others not taking similar precautions. 

What you can choose to focus on is what you DO have control of. There are still ways to connect with others. Video chats, phone calls, virtual meet-ups, online games, the options are much greater than ever before. Talking with friends and family even just a couple times a week can greatly improve the management of anxiety and feelings of despair. 

It is important to try and have a consistent time during this time. Attempt to keep regular sleep and wake times, meal times, exercise, and relaxation times. If you have less structure, it is easier to fall into unhealthy patterns or habits. Even with a routine, try to have some variety in your day, which is important to maintaining good mental health. 

Remember – Fear can make us act differently 

Fear can color our feelings and lead some to act very differently than they normally would. Any perceived threat in our lives would make many of us experience inordinate levels of fear. This fear can manifest itself in many ways such as aggression, making dangerous choices, or hoarding. Planning and compulsion are very different. Anxiety drives us to take action and may cause us to engage in counterproductive or odd behavior. Too much anxious energy can compel many to even act irrationally. 

Many people bought way more toilet paper than they’ll ever need. Some bought way too much nonperishable food (anyone else set on beans and rice for a while?). This was an attempt to control the situation in a manner that could help reduce some anxiety. Much of what we do when experiencing anxiety is not always rational. 

If you are struggling with this, make a list of things you feel compelled to do, then decide if what you want to do mitigates the threat, or if you are motivated by less rational anxieties. Lists are helpful to gain control over our behavior, but also help us to be more mindful of where our anxiety is coming from and the relationship between behavior and anxiety. 

Focus on what you can control such as social distancing, handwashing, and maintaining healthy behaviors to help you cope. If you need some extra help, we are seeing patients remotely during this time. 

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