These days, we all have to accept the anxiety inherent in living in the time of the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19. If there was a way to dispel all anxious feelings, I’d tell you, but there isn’t. The one exception might be someone who could summon such a degree of denial that they carry on as if everything was normal. And that, as I’m sure you can see, would prove to be very, very unwise.
Anxiety helps us prepare to respond in a more adaptive and healthy way. Some people find it possible to tolerate some degree of discomfort and can manage their anxiety in a healthy manner. Often that’s because some people have done well under this kind of challenge already, albeit in very different contexts. Life has a way of requiring this. Yet other people — particularly people who have anxiety disorders — may understandably be having a great deal of trouble coping.
How can I cope with the coronavirus outbreak if I have a pre-existing anxiety disorder?
Anxiety disorders take many forms and affect many people. So, what happens now if you’re someone who has suffered way too much already with a pre-existing anxiety disorder? For example, perhaps you have been, or could be, diagnosed with panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Hopefully, you may find that the tips below will help you cope more successfully with what we are all facing together in these unprecedented times.
Seek support from a mental health professional
Talking to a mental health professional can bolster your ability to address present concerns, and help you clarify where your feelings are coming from, as explained below. When you’re feeling extra worried or overwhelmed, it could be that some of your feelings are from the present challenge and some are from challenges you have faced in the past.
Many psychotherapists and health plans are offering telehealth visits during this time. Ask your therapist or insurance plan if this is an option. More therapists than ever before are moving their practices online. If you search for therapists in your area, their websites may tell you whether they participate in telehealth. Additionally, some national telehealth apps offer therapy via video or audio chat.
Work toward separating out where your feelings are coming from
Doing this work can allow you to take a breath and divvy up the different emotional contributions that feed how you’re feeling.
- Try saying this, for example: “Of course, I’m more concerned than (my roommate/my friend/my family), because I’m practiced at feeling anxious or helpless.”
- The next step is to recognize that the percentage of feelings that stem from the past do not have to govern how you necessarily feel i