“What if you have the kind of anxiety that makes you feel trapped and panicky because of the stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19? While there are some whose anxiety disorder might find it a relief to stay home and engage in social distancing, there are many for whom this situation creates a special nightmare.”
In a blog post for The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Dr. Cassiday addresses some of the reasons behind heightened anxiety and gives concrete steps to take to mitigate panic during this difficult time. From the article:
- Reframe your increased symptoms as your body’s typical and accidental response to mass hysteria, sudden restrictions on lifestyle, and your ability to be sensitive and empathize with your fellow humans.
- Radically decrease your exposure to anxiety-provoking media and conversations. Do not pay attention to the “COVID count” and ask your friends and family to refrain from these type of discussions or sharing their most frightening information.
- Make time to slow your body down by using meditation, relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing, relaxation yoga, or prayer. Your body needs help being reminded that it can ratchet down to a resting state so it can get out of alarm mode. Do this when you wake up and then twice more throughout the day. Your goal is to keep your body from getting stuck in perpetual high idle mode.
- When you feel a panic attack beginning, breathe slowly and gently through your nose while keeping your mouth closed. Breathe so gently that you can barely feel the breath moving in the back of your throat and there is no audible sound of inhaling or exhaling. This will decrease the amount of carbon dioxide you over-exhale during a panic attack and help to reduce your physical symptoms of panic. You can also use this same technique after a panic attack begins. If you cannot slow down your breathing, you can also breathe in and out as slowly as possible into your cupped hands or a paper bag to help raise the carbon dioxide level in your blood.
- Remind yourself that your panic attack is a false alarm. It may feel awful, but nothing bad is happening to your body. Panic attacks are physically harmless and do not increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, or going insane. A typical symptom of an anxiety attack, however, is the feeling that you might be having a heart attack, a stroke, loss of control, or loss of sanity. A panic attack is like your body’s way of being the not-so-funny kid who surprise-pops a balloon behind you to try and make you jump.
- Join a free online support group so you can get peer support for coping and to normalize the difficulty of suddenly having to adapt to the COVID-19 stay-at-home lifestyle. You will find that you are not alone and are likely to get some great tips for coping.
- If you feel you cannot manage, get help. You do not have to continue to suffer. Therapists and psychiatrists can provide evaluations and therapy using videoconferencing.
This post is for educational purposes only and not intended to diagnose mental health issues or serve as a treatment plan. It is for the general public and not directed at any one person.