Zahira Melendez Therapy, LMFT-A

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. " - Nelson Mandela

Blog: 5 Tips to Reduce Anxiety During COVID-19

The coronavirus has made its way into our local communities. Schools and businesses are closing. Folks are being asked to stay home whenever possible and keep social distancing. The World Health Organization has called it a pandemic as it has spread worldwide.

People are concerned about their family’s health, food supplies, financial loss, isolation and the possibility of losing a loved one. On top of that, we are constantly being bombarded with news reports and social media with details of what is happening all around the world, most of it painting a bleak forecast.

All of this can be overwhelming. At this point in time, people are experiencing different levels of anxiety. Anxiety symptoms can include excessive worry, fear, increased heart rate, hypervigilance, restlessness, irritability, fatigue, insomnia, and changes in appetite, amongst others.

Here are 5 tips that can help you manage anxiety during this season.

#1 Disconnect

The constant flow of information can be overwhelming. Yes, you should stay informed, but you don’t have to stay connected to the news media 24/7. Give yourself permission to take breaks from the news and any source of stressful information. After you do that, go to step #2.

#2 Breathe

When we are anxious, our muscles can tighten up and our breathing can become shallow. Taking deep breaths helps us relax. Did you know that extending your exhale activates the calming part of the nervous system? The PSNS (parasympathetic nervous system), known as the rest and digest system, slows down the heart rate and helps with digestion amongst many other things. So if your appetite is off, you can't sit still, or your heart rate is elevated, BREATHE! A daily mindful breathing meditation practice will help keep your nervous system in check. Note: Always check with your doctor to determine that you are not experiencing a medical condition that is causing the symptoms.

#3 Engage in a Pleasant Activity

Hey, if most of the time we are going to be at home, then let's find ways to engage in things that give us pleasure. So get out your dusty arts and craft materials, bake, hit the weights, do some gardening, read a book, do an online watch party, watch your favorite movies... you name it!

#4 Physical Activity

Exercise helps reduce muscle tension and increases anti-anxiety chemicals in your body. So, move your body. If you don’t know where to start, hit the internet. There are many FREE options available that will teach you how to dance, do pilates, yoga, stretch, get a six pack, do cardio, lift weights, etc. You can ask your gym instructor if they can give you a private online session. That is a great opportunity to support your instructor while business is slow.

#5 Social Support

But what about social distancing? Well, we should follow the recommendations of the experts and keep social distancing. At the same time, we can provide each other with support the old fashioned way by picking up the phone and calling someone, or also by texting, making a video call, or chatting on social media platforms. We can also connect with our neighbors, at a six foot distance of course, to provide support to each other in a time of need. Don’t isolate yourself from human connection. We want to avoid unnecessary physical human contact, not human connection. Stay engaged and reach out to others.

There are many things we can do to reduce our anxiety levels. Find the ones that work best for you. I hope these tips help you during this season.

If you find that it is challenging to manage anxiety or the anxiety is increasing, reach out. I can help you decrease anxiety and any distress you might be experiencing. I provide online therapy sessions, which is an effective way of receiving therapeutic services and in your case, reducing anxiety. Anxiety can become unmanageable overtime. Don’t let anxiety rule your world. Seek professional help.

Zahira Melendez provides psychotherapy services in Austin, Texas and uses telehealth to extend her services across the state. She specializes in anxiety, trauma, PTSD and relational issues. You can contact her here.

This article has been published in PsychCentral.