6 tips for coping with COVID anxiety this fall and winter: gunshots
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As the days get shorter and the nights longer, the delta variant of the coronavirus is still very much present, sad to say. It’s already clear that the next two seasons won’t be the “life as usual” we all hoped for.
“People are very frustrated. People have been doing this for a long time, and now they thought things would be in a different position,” says Vickie Mays, professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
We are likely to see pockets of epidemics and increased restrictions again with each increase in local cases and hospitalizations, says Dr. Preeti Malani, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Michigan. And that leaves some of us a little anxious, to say the least.
So in what ways can we deal with our anxiety as the days get a little darker and we remove the masks?
The good news is that this winter we know what masks and other restrictions look like and we know how they can make us feel. Here are some tools our experts recommend to help us manage it all:
Reframe your perception of anxiety
Cropping can be a valuable tool. It takes feelings or emotions that you have and turns them into something useful. For anxiety, learn exactly why you are feeling anxious and accept that this is completely normal. New York University neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki explains that uncertainty causes anxiety – that feeling of sweating and falling stomach that you experience when you are on high alert – which is a the body’s natural stress response system.
Suzuki, who is the author of a book to be released this month called Good anxiety: harnessing the power of the most misunderstood emotion, says instead of approaching anxiety as a negative emotion that needs to be suppressed, we should think of it as a superpower that motivates us to take action. It helped our ancestors escape the lions, she says. It’s that “quick cortisol shot,” along with adrenaline, that helps a mother lift a car for her toddler.
Suzuki also suggests changing your “what if” list to a “to do” list. Your “what if” list is the list you make in your head of all the things that could go wrong – like I can’t get on a plane to see my mom this winter? Instead of sitting around simmering, do something when you’re feeling anxious, Suzuki says. Start by making a list of actions you can take, for example, to make sure you stay in touch with your distant family this winter: set up a video chat, write a letter, plan to take an online cooking class together.
Learn to breathe calmly
If you are feeling anxious or angry, activate your parasympathetic nervous system. “The secret is deep breathing,” Suzuki says, and you can do it wherever you are. Inhale deeply as you count to 4, then breathe out as you count to 4. Repeat until you are calm.
There are many apps that can help you learn to breathe more slowly, including Calm and Insight Timer. Stop, Breathe & Think Kids includes an exercise in which you trace your fingers as you breathe in, hold for a second up, then trace your fingers down as you breathe out. It’s called five-finger breathing, and it works for adults too!
Move your body
You can fight anxiety with physical movement. Feeling anxious all the time, like many people since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, has many long-term health implications, Suzuki says. It “can cause everything, heart disease, digestive problems like ulcers, long-term reproductive problems” and even damage to brain cells.
Exercise, even just 10 minutes a day, makes a difference. “Every time you move your body, it’s like giving your brain a wonderful bubble bath of neurochemicals, including dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine,” Suzuki explains. “These are the neurochemicals that naturally lower anxiety, stress levels, and depression levels.”
Research shows that exercise can also relieve panic attacks and mood and sleep disorders, and a study in the journal Lancet Psychiatry discovered that joining a team sport could be even better than going to the gym alone.
Exercise planning is half the battle, Seattle personal trainer Salina Duggan told NPR recently, and if you can’t get out because of the weather, it can seem even more difficult. But it doesn’t have to be. Get a yoga mat and place it near your workspace.
Connect with others
Being with other people is a critical part of maintaining our sanity and something that many of us stopped doing or switched to online during the initial period of strict COVID-19 restrictions last year.
But this winter will not be like the last, says Malani, “because we have safe and very effective vaccines.” She says the advice she gives to everyone is the same as she gives to her own parents: “Make sure the people you hang out with are fully immunized.”
Yes, breakthrough infections in people who have been vaccinated can happen, she says, and we don’t quite know how often, “but it is really unlikely” that you will get seriously ill if you hang out with other vaccinated people. .
So go on vacation, visit your parents, see the friend you haven’t seen in a while, she advises, but take precautions and keep an eye out for what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend and on the transmission rate where you go. Remember to keep a mask inside when making these visits, especially if you are around young children who cannot be vaccinated or people with weakened immune systems.
“The risk is not zero, but it is outweighed by the benefits,” says Malani.
Find a ritual that is meaningful to you, and maybe even share it
Long before the pandemic, Suzuki looked for ways to incorporate a ritual into meditation to allay his own anxiety. She found it when she attended a tea ceremony in Bali, Indonesia, in 2015. During the ceremony, a monk silently brewed and poured several rounds of tea into ceramic tea bowls made from ceramic. hand for the guests.
“It was like I finally had a good excuse to just be present and enjoy the breeze and the warmth of the tea bowl and the reflections I could see on the surface,” she said. Since then, she herself has been repeating the silent tea meditation almost every morning and, during the pandemic, shared it on Zoom as a way to connect with friends.
Accept that our new normal may be abnormal
As much as we want, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is here for a while, and we need to find ways to manage our risks and take care of our mental health for the long term.
“For some of us, we’re always looking for that magical moment when everything will return to normal,” says Malani. “And, you know, unfortunately that won’t happen.”