First, we heard about the coronavirus in China and Japan. The news covered the many deaths it caused and told us about people flying back to the US being put in quarantine. America was on edge, but we didn’t panic. Before we knew it, the virus spread to different states in America and the news began to talk nonstop about it. Now America is in a state of emergency and mass hysteria has begun. Everyone’s ability to handle anxiety, fears, and stress is being put to the test. If you’re struggling with mental illness, you may find some of the symptoms of your illness intensified. How do you cope with your anxiety, fears, and stress?
It seems like everyone has gone crazy with fear. Panic, like we have seen on television shows, is happening in reality. People are going to the stores in droves stocking up on foods, sanitizer, disinfectants, toilet paper, and other paper products. People with germ phobias are wearing hazmat suits, masks, and gloves. Fears are running high for everyone and even more for those struggling with mental illness.
I have been working in a grocery store for nearly 25 years. I have worked through holiday madness and winter storm craziness, but this coronavirus hysteria is unlike anything I have ever experienced. I wait on endless lines of people with overflowing cartloads of groceries. My anxiety is running wild. I try to greet customers in between dry heaves. Within my mind, I try to calm myself before I have a full anxiety attack. I practice breathing in and slowly letting it out. One day after work I went to the ladies’ room to get sick.
I’m not in a panic over the virus, but the overwhelming crowds of customers have stirred up my anxiety and stress. I have come up with a few coping techniques that have helped me and may help you deal with this growing hysteria.
- Don’t watch, listen to, or read too much of the news. It’s good to keep track of what is happening in your area, but if you focus too much on the media, it will only heighten your anxiety, fears, and stress. The news goes on constantly about the coronavirus and its effects on other countries along with ours. The news is very good at hyping up situations to cause fear. I turn on the news enough to find out if the virus is in our area and then I turn it off. I watch Netflix so I won’t have to hear about it in commercials. When the news airs on the radio, I listen to it for a bit and put in a CD.
- Practice relaxation techniques when you find your anxiety taking over or stress getting the better of you. When you’re in the midst of the crowds, take deep breaths and let them out slowly. Get out of the madness, and go to a quiet park and sit, walk, or journal. Take a bubble bath or watch a good movie. If you can’t leave, then close your eyes briefly and think of going somewhere peaceful like to a beach, woods, or your favorite place. I like to journal after work and while at work I think about lying on a beach with water washing up around me.
- Live each day one at a time. Try to focus on the day you’re in instead of fearing the future. It’s easy to worry about the “what ifs,” but the “what ifs” can drive you into a deep depression or a major break down. Don’t think, “What if I get the coronavirus and die?” or “What if everything shuts down and I starve to death?” Just focus on your day and the tasks you need to do. It doesn’t hurt to get some extra food, but don’t overstock like you’ll be stuck in quarantine for months. Worrying about the future will only heighten your anxiety. I focus on getting through work and going home to snuggle with my husband.
- Don’t stop living your life. It would be so easy to crawl in bed and not leave, but what good does that do you? Staying in bed, locked up in your house will only increase your depression. When you stop living, you’re left alone with your thoughts, the television that constantly goes on about the virus, and your out of control fears. You have a life don’t; let this virus keep you from living it. Take precautions, but keep going on. Go to your job, keep your appointments, and don’t cancel your plans. I get up each morning and do my normal routines even though I’d like to stay in bed. I continue to work, run errands on my days off, and even go for a walk at Erie’s Peninsula.
- Take care of yourself physically and mentally. This is a very important time to nurture yourself. Keep up with your psychiatrist and therapist appointments, take your medications, and work on your thought process. Do everything they tell you to like washing your hands, staying home when you’re sick and keeping your hands away from your face. Also make sure you’re getting rest when you need it, showering regularly, and getting out of bed. Don’t neglect yourself. I’m exercising, I take a shower each morning, I keep in touch with my support system, and I make sure I take my medications.
- Stay positive. Yes, a scary virus is in our country, but there are still plenty of good things going on in your life. Focus on the good things like your loved ones, your job, the sun shining brightly, a smile from a stranger, and so on. Positive things are happening all around you. Look for them. If you need to, make a list of them. Each day find something good about it. Despite the bad things happening in our country, find something good. Goodness is still out there. This isn’t the end of the world. Wonderful things are still happening in this world. Find them and hold onto them. I’m focusing on the writing workshops I’m doing September 12 and October 3, and I’m grateful after a long day I can come home to my husband and dog.
During these very scary and crazy times, these coping techniques are helping me stand within the light of recovery.