How do I manage my extreme anxiety about this virus while taking care of my family?
Updated: Mar 24, 2020
With all of the unpredictability in which we find ourselves, it is normal to feel some anxiety. Routines have been altered, our ability to socialize has been disrupted, and dealing with all of the change and uncertainty can be overwhelming.
The media coverage of COVID-19 has been constant (and is probably exacerbated by the fact that not much else is going on right now - since we’re all at home)! As a result, many people are wondering if we’ll ever return to normal, and like you, are feeling extremely anxious. While the circumstances in the world are indeed unsettling, the way in which you make sense of them can make you feel worse - or can make you feel better.
All day long, we narrate our experiences with via our thoughts. However, often, we respond to our thoughts as if they are 100% true - even though there could be multiple ways of looking at a situation. Therefore, when you are feeling your anxiety being triggered, it can be helpful to take a step back to try to identify your thought that caused that reaction, and to see if there are any other ways to look at the situation.
For example, let’s say your thought was, “I’m afraid I’m going to get the coronavirus.” Left unchecked, that thought would make you pretty scared and anxious. But is there any other way to look at it? For example, an alternate thought could be, “I’m following all of the recommendations such as washing my hands and social distancing, so I’m decreasing the odds that I’ll get it or spread it to others.”
By challenging your thoughts or at least choosing a different thought that provides you with a bit of relief, you can lessen your anxiety, while still taking all of the necessary precautions that we are being instructed to do.
You can take a similar approach with your kids by acknowledging and empathizing with any anxiety they might be experiencing, then guiding them through considering whether there are any other ways that they could look at a situation that is triggering them.
These skills will be invaluable for them to deal with other stressful events that they will experience in life.
Dr. Patricia Thompson