How to cope with COVID-19 anxiety

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Pexels.com

TW: COVID-19, Coronavirus

I’ve struggled with writing this post because I’m struggling myself with how to cope with what’s going on all around me in relation to COVID-19. I’ve found that my ADHD has pretty much frozen me into inactivity due to anxiety with everything that’s going on. In helping to calm my own anxiety and figuring out what supports I need in place because of my ADHD, I thought I’d share those with you too, and hopefully we’ll all be better off for it. And while I’m writing with the lens of ADHD, what follows would work for anyone.

What is going on around us

We are currently surrounded by people in various states of panic. Civic leaders, neighbors, business owners…nearly everyone is in a state of heightened anxiety either directly or indirectly related to COVID-19, Coronavirus. We can see countries farther ahead in the progression of the virus. Some people are in country-wide quarantine and various states of lockdown.

Every day the local climate is changing as new directives are brought down from the leadership. Schools are closing across the nation. Restaurants and entertainment facilities are being shut down. Gatherings of 50 or more people are being prohibited in certain areas, and gatherings of fewer than 50 people may have serious restrictions.

Social media is full of images that are frightening. Long lines of people waiting outside of stores to buy toilet paper and water from empty shelves. Crowds of people being held together for hours in airports to clear security and customs checkpoints. It’s so hard to see these images. It’s easy to give in to overwhelming fear. Or to turn to anger towards leadership that lets these things happen.

But no one has planned for this. Everyone is doing the best they can to cope with a problem that is changing daily and has massive implications. The more we focus on the problems that we cannot do anything about, the more panic we will feel and the worse off we will be. With that in mind, here are the things I’m going to do to help keep myself from joining the ever-growing hysteria.

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God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

The Serenity Prayer, by Reinhold Niebuhr

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What we can do about it

  1. Let it go. As we are reminded in the serenity prayer, it’s important to accept that there are many parts of what is going on that you and I simply have no control over. Let those things go.
  2. Follow published guidelines. Wash your hands, avoid meeting in large groups. Practice social distancing. Please. For your sake and that of those around you.
  3. Take care of your basic needs. Make sure you have enough food, water, and other supplies to get you through a few days at least. If you’ve got a few days, then work up to a week, two weeks, etc. With food, it’s best to stock up on non-perishable items. Check your prescriptions, and if you’ve got one that needs refilling, make sure to schedule time to get it done. If you’ve got a car, make sure you’ve got plenty of gas.
  4. Ask for help if you need it. It can be so easy to ignore our own needs, or to be too proud to ask for help if you simply cannot meet them. Many folks may be out of work because of all of the restrictions that have come out and are still coming out. If you cannot meet your own basic needs, ask for help. Start with family and friends. Then go to church or government sources if needed. Call around to local charitable organizations too. You might be surprised by how much help you will get just by asking.
  5. Check on your family and close friends. Once you know you have your basic needs met, check on your family and close friends, even if they don’t live close to you. Connecting to your social support network will help ease anxiety in two ways, by just being able to talk with them and also because you can ease your mind regarding their welfare. You may also need to urge them to take step 3 and get help for themselves too.
  6. Monitor your self-care. After your own basic needs, continued self-care is a must. If you’ve created your #10for20Challenge list, make sure you do something from your list daily. If you’re in a situation where you’re spending more time at home instead of going to work, consider doing several items from your list each day. This will help improve your mood and outlook. Also make sure you include time to shower, get proper sleep, drink plenty of water, and eat regularly.
  7. Help your neighbors and community. If you have the means and can safely help in some way, reach out to your neighbors or local charitable organizations and see how you can help. When I am stuck in a bad mood and don’t know how to lift it, helping others has been a surefire cure. But again, make sure you can keep yourself safe and include proper hygiene and social distancing in any volunteering you engage in.
  8. Create a new schedule. If your regular schedule included work or school and that has been completely disrupted, create a new schedule for yourself and/or your children. We humans thrive on routine and our minds feel calmer when there’s a plan. Make one. Start with a desired wake up and bedtime. Fill in with meals and appropriate activities in between. Remember time to be active and time for your #10for20Challenge.
  9. When all else fails, play a game. Especially if you’re facing days or weeks of a new, unfamiliar routine that you didn’t plan for, you may find large chunks of time that you don’t know how to fill. Games are a great distraction and help to ease stress. If you’ve got kids in that scenario, consider breaking out the old board games, puzzles, or family-friendly co-op video games. Games are a great way to connect with each other and pass some time, especially if TV and movies are getting old.

So that’s my plan to start things off. The biggest struggle I’ve had related to ADHD in this mess has been a tendency to get stuck in inaction. I will take in some new bit of shocking news and just sit there in a kind of unthinking state and do nothing. Giving myself a clear path to follow, like the list above, helps to know what to do and will move me to get things done.

This whole Coronavirus thing is very overwhelming. But it will become less-so if we focus on what we can actually change. So start with what’s on this list. Figure out what you can do to improve your situation and then look to see how you can safely help others. Can you think of other things that should be on this list? Comment below or let me know on Twitter. If this has helped you, please consider sharing it with others.

We will get through this.

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