Anxiety and COVID-19

From the Desk of Professional Development

I recently saw a Facebook group post from another therapist who shared many of her clients with diagnosed anxiety disorders have found their COVID-19 experience to be enlightening. Family members, friends, teachers, and other people in their lives are experiencing first-hand what it’s like to live with an anxiety disorder. And many with anxiety feel understood for the first time.

What does an anxiety disorder feel like?

Anxiety is different for everyone. Some people worry about very specific concerns, while others worry about everything and anything. I think of anxiety as electricity bolts that zap your brain, cutting off signals to your logical thinking and taking control over your bodily responses. It makes you think of the worst outcomes, triggering fear, which triggers our need to protect ourselves. And when we give into those thoughts, they eventually take over our brain. Instead of focusing on our homework, our brain resembles the picture below.

Anxiety Over Specific Concern

General Anxiety

Anxiety is not just in your head

Part of what makes anxiety hard to treat is that it’s not just in your head. Anxiety affects your entire body.When we work with patients, we give them tools to calm their body’s response and regain control. Here is an awesome video with more info on anxiety.

Many with anxiety experience physical symptoms during and after high anxiety moments, such as:

– tension or panic in their limbs, stomach, head, chest, etc.

– sweating

– difficulty breathing

– difficulty sitting still

– needing to use the bathroom more

– heart racing

Perfecting Takes Time

Our body’s response to anxiety is a pretty cool skill. See we have been developing our ability to respond to threats since the first human. All of which have become ingrained in our DNA and passed down. It’s a response our bodies, our parent’s bodies, and our ancestors have been working to perfect. And in many situations, our fast responses work and do protect us. What it doesn’t do well is turn off. This is when we see people developing anxiety disorders and related symptoms. This is also related to the impact of trauma on our bodies.

How to care for yourself when anxious

Whether anxiety is something you’ve struggled with for a long time or it’s been brought on by COVID-19, the most important tool is learning what you can control. You are in control of you.

If it’s hard to remember what in your control, try these strategies:
  • Challenge your anxious thoughts with realistic or positive thoughts to take back the control.
  • Tell your anxiety to ‘go away’ or ‘I can’t control that’ when you feel panicked.
  • Ask yourself ‘what can I control right now’. 

Make time for you. Revive and recharge.

Even though humans have incredibly high endurance, our bodies need down time. Our bodies need emotional, physical, social, financial, and spiritual care.

Here are some ideas to help your self-care right from your own home:

  • Bubble baths
  • Not over booking yourself (even over booking your web meetings)
  • Reading a book for fun
  • Journal
  • Teach your kids or nieces/nephews how much fun old school walkie talkies are 
  • Break out your old school ‘Oregon Trail’ game
  • Change up your exercise routine – There are some great tutorials on YouTube! 
  • Use Skype or Facebook Messenger to play games with family online 
  • Find a new show to binge watch 
  • Walk your dog along a new path 
  • Try cooking some new recipes 
  • Don’t work in the same room you sleep in (if possible) 
  • Take breaks to disconnect from electronic devices 
  • Learn new meditations or mindfulness activities
  • Look up DIY craft projects 
  • With an NPI number, you can sign up for Headspace for free!

How to care for others with anxiety

Support those you care about with words.

If you notice they look or sound worried, offer your support. Tell them ‘you got this’, ‘I am proud of you’, and ‘I support you’. Don’t just say it once, twice, or three times. Say it freely and often. Even if you don’t have anxiety, we as humans need to hear we are loved, supported, and wanted.

Support them with action.

Instead of waiting for them to self-care, surprise them with their favorite dinner, a bubble bath, or an ear to listen.

Support them with touch – but first, ask for consent!

Some find hugs or sitting together helps relieve their anxiety. This can be tricky; many trauma survivors have anxiety disorders and may find touching worsens their anxiety rather than helps. During COVID-19, it’s also important to keep your social distance. So, instead of hugging them – try warming a blanket in the dryer and having them wrap it around them while you talk, watch their favorite show, or listen to the Weeknd’s new album.

Do things together.

Everyone shows and feels love differently. One of the ways we show and receive love is spending time together.

Find ways to incorporate those you care about into your daily activities.

Instead of getting together for your weekly book club, get everyone together on Messenger.  Send post cards to your friends, instead of email. This makes catching up unique and fun!

Get support

No matter whether your anxiety is new or ongoing – it’s important to get the support you need. Huckleberry House has trained therapists who can help you with your anxiety. There are also lots of great therapists across Ohio. Follow these links to get the support you need.

Huckleberry House 614-294-5553

Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services

Netcare Access (Central Ohio) (614) 276-2273

Nationwide Children’s Hospital (Central Ohio) (614) 355-8080

Get professional support from Huckleberry House

Professional Development Webinars

If you’re interested in learning more, sign up for our FREE Mental Health 101: Youth Focus webinar.

Consultation

If you are struggling with helping your teen and young adult clients with their anxiety, sign up for consultation by contacting our Professional Development Team at profdev@huck-house.org or by phone at 614-294-5553.

Resource Library

Check out our resource library to get anxiety worksheets to use with your clients.