Practical Help for Pandemic Panic

Anxiety in the time of a pandemic makes sense.  Anxiety is normal and protective in many ways.  Some amount of fear can help us make the choices we need to protect ourselves and others from spreading the virus.  But too much of it is not good for anything, including your immune system, so here are some practical action oriented things that can help….

  • Problem Solve   Think about the things you’re worried about.  Many of the these, are things you can do something about, and doing something about them may help lower your anxiety.  If you’re worried about money because your business is temporarily shut down, make a budget and track your spending to see what the reality is.  Look for a temporary job online, or if it feels right for you, work at a grocery store, or deliver food or packages.  
  • Lower Your Expectations   The idea that you can fill your time, and your children’s time, with totally productive activities, not to mention becoming their teacher as well, is pressure you don’t need.  Decide how you will spend your time by listening to your inner compass, not societies expectations, nor social media’s latest thing. 
  • Exercise   Get that blood flowing, and body moving.  Really get out of your head and into your body.  Do anything that creates a little joy or pleasure.  What did you used to love doing?  What do you love doing now?  Hiking, dancing, yoga, lifting weights?  Do it.  You can do it alone, with people you love, or join an online class.  Even hiking, walking and riding can be done at least 6 feet apart.    
  • Enhance Your Nutrition   Good nutrition can help us be at our best emotionally, mentally and physically.  Avoid alcohol which can be a depressant and may lower our immunity at times.  Avoid too much sugar which can also mess with our mood and immunity.  Eat nutrient dense foods.  Try to avoid the SAD (standard American diet).  See if you can eat lots of whole foods.  Drink lots of water.  Avoid anything you know you are allergic or sensitive to.  Those foods can create more inflammation in our bodies which can seriously contribute to emotional disorders like those of anxiety and depression.  
  • Sleep Well and Enough   Sleep 8-9 hours per night.  If you’re having trouble sleeping, contact a knowledgeable doctor or medical practitioner, herbalist, doctor of Chinese medicine or talk to a staff person at Pharmaca.  There are many good solutions for sleep.  Good sleep is essential for good mental health.  
  • Get Outside   Garden, or just sit or walk in the sun.  Vitamin D is another essential ingredient for mental health and we can get a lot of that from the sun.  Nature is also a reminder of what is going really well in the world right now.  From the big sky and beautiful trees to a tiny lady bug, or spring tulip.  Revel in all that is beautiful and just as it was meant to be, in the natural world.  
  • Help Others   Focusing on others can sometimes get you out of our own troubled mental state long enough to help it shift.  There are plenty of people who need lots of help.  In the state where I live the governor has called for volunteers, blood donations and donations of money.  There are elders that need someone to bring them food.  There are many opportunities right now.
  • Busy Your Mind   If you have more time on your hands, do something productive.  Take an online class.  Study something that interests you.  Learning can provide a nice distraction from anxiety.  
  • Do Something Active   What is the saying?  You can’t wring your hands and role up your shirt sleeves at the same time.  Busy your body and your mind may quiet down.  
  • Re-organize Something   Do a home project, garden, paint something.  Just get busy.
  • Meditation, Guided Imagery, and Biofeedback   All of these are very regulating to the brain and body and therefore, the emotions.  The more you do them the more helpful they will be.  
  • Deepen Your Spiritual Connections   Whatever you believe, dive in a bit.  This could look like online services, prayer, acts of kindness, study, etc.  It could also look like meditation or simply appreciating and connecting to nature.
  • Connect With Others   Connect over video, on the phone, with those you live with, standing outside, apart from, but with, neighbors.  Try to work on your relationships.  Enjoy them.  No matter what happens with this pandemic, life is short.  Let’s live it.
  • Consider Adding an Animal to Your Life   Maybe you already have one, or maybe not, but being at home a lot might lend itself to bonding with an animal.  But make sure not to go that route, if you won’t have time for them when life normalizes and you’re at home less.  
  • Sit Still and Notice   Be quite and still.  Just let things stop.  
  • Use Aromatherapy   Scents can be very soothing.  Find a scent that brings you more calm and relaxation.  Lavender is a go-to for many.  
  • Take Baths   Really let yourself feel the full experience of sinking your body down into a warm bath of water.  You can add some flowers, herbs, or scents to your bath to add to the calm.  Candles can add to the ambiance of relaxation as well.
  • Get Creative   Paint something.  Write a song.  Write a book.  Write a poem.  Choreograph a dance.  Learn how to play an instrument.  Express yourself.  Do something creative with your angst.  Transform it. 
  • Figure out What Kind of Person You Are Regarding the News and Information   Some people feel very grounded by getting all the facts, so they can have the best response.  Others feel overloaded and scared by all of the info and need much less.  If you’re the latter, have someone you trust read the news and just give you the facts you need to know to be as safe as possible.  Even if you’re the former, perhaps just look at it once or twice a day.  Receiving news notifications to your devices can create a constant sense of panic and not enough reprieve or sense of normalcy.
  • Meet With a Therapist   We are lucky to have many great therapists in our community.  Ask your friends if they know someone good, or research them on Psychology Today, and the internet.  Try a few or a handful.  If they don’t have expertise in what you’re struggling with, or even if you just don’t like them very much, find someone else.  Then give it a little time.  We are so lucky to live in a time where we can access online therapy and even do it from our couches.    
  • Try Medicinal Herbs and Supplements   These products can help a lot with anxiety.  Contact a functional medicine practitioner, an herbalist, a doctor of Chinese medicine, or talk to a staff person at Pharmaca, if you can.  Traditional herbal medicines have been around forever.  Before pharmaceuticals, herbs were all people had.  Learn about them and make use of the ones that are right for you.  These are simple and powerful medicines from the earth.  
  • Pharmaceutical Help   If your anxiety is too much and not getting better soon enough, consider a pharmaceutical.  There are some antidepressants that are known to help with anxiety.  Consult your physician or better yet, a psychiatrist.  Don’t mix anti-anxiety, and antidepressant herbs and supplements with pharmaceuticals without a doctor’s approval.  

Remember that at any given moment, you are sharing whatever experience you’re having with countless other people around the planet.  You are not alone.  

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