6 tips for dealing with anxiety over the coronavirus
With talk of COVID-19 dominating many of our lives, the director of addiction services at Naperville-based Linden Oaks Behavioral Health is urging people "not to let our anxiety get the better of us."
Aaron Weiner says it's essential to follow the proper guidelines to slow the progression of the virus, but it's also important for people not to let fears of the unknown dominate their lives.
In written comments distributed by Edward-Elmhurst Health, Weiner said excessive anxiety can hurt all areas of life, including relationships, parenting and even immune systems.
He offered the following tips for reducing anxiety:
• Limit the amount of time you spend reading and watching coronavirus news. While it is important to stay abreast of current recommendations, remember that every time you expose yourself to disturbing news, you are stoking the fires of your own anxiety. "Choose one time per day to read about coronavirus news, and once you are updated, wait until tomorrow to check again," he said.
• Focus on what you can control to keep you and your family healthy, and let go of what you can't. If you follow recommendations from health care institutions, you can rest easy knowing you've done your part to keep yourself and your family safe.
• Don't engage in "safety behaviors" that increase your anxiety without making you any safer. For coronavirus, this means taking recommended precautions, but not going overboard.
An example of a safety behavior in this circumstance is mask-hoarding or preventive mask-wearing -- the CDC has been very clear that masks are most useful right now for containing germs if you're sick, but not for keeping germs out when you're in public. Worse yet, people tend to touch their face more when wearing a mask, which is associated with increased risk of contracting the virus.
• Avoid catastrophizing: Remember that, in all likelihood, you are going to be OK. It's easy to assume the worst, but this only makes our anxiety worse. "If you operate under the assumption that you and your loved ones will be OK, your anxiety will be significantly lower than if you ruminate on possible catastrophic outcomes," Weiner said.
• Engage in mindfulness meditation to reduce your reactivity to anxiety. If you're not familiar with such meditation, try getting started with a smartphone app that uses research-supported techniques and provides you with training. He recommends Headspace and 10% Happier,
• Get support and talk about your feelings. "Make sure you open up to close friends and family about your feelings and, if necessary, don't hesitate to work with a therapist," he said.
If you or a member of your family would benefit from working with a therapist, visit www.eehealth.org/services/behavioral-health or call Linden Oaks Behavioral Health at (630) 305-5027 to find the location nearest you.