With orders from Governors instructing us to stay in our homes to ensure our safety and the safety of those around us, it’s easy to feel cooped up and even develop some anxiety about COVID-19 (coronavirus). There are cases of all over the country, and unfortunately New York has been hit particularly hard. Especially for those of you that can’t leave home, you may feel very isolated. During this time, it may also feel easy to slip into unhealthy habits. Here, we’ll remind you of ways that you can focus your energy on developing habits to keep your anxiety in check, and keep your body ready for anything.
One of the most important ways to alleviate anxiety is to make a plan. This can be as basic or detailed as you need it to be. Generally, a good rule of thumb is to organize your blocks of time in no smaller increments than 30 minutes. In terms of routine, waking up and going to sleep at the same time is crucial for managing anxiety about COVID-19 and for boosting your immune system. Writing out a schedule for the day will help you avoid falling into a binge watching black hole or wasting time in general. Furthermore, it’ll help you hold yourself accountable and stick to additional healthy habits.
It's important to try to keep your anxiety in check by limiting the amount of stressful information you ingest every day. Build check-ins into your schedule and try to keep it to a total of 30-60 minutes of TV news or reading articles for the day. Keeping yourself informed with reliable and trustworthy sources is important because it reminds you of the facts. However, it's easy to become consumed with information. So if you set some limits on this, you'll notice that you can probably have a more positive and fulfilling day.
Knowing that you are doing something to protect yourself can help mitigate your anxiety about COVID-19 in addition to decreasing your risk. Good hygiene is the easiest step you can take. This includes throwing tissues away immediately after blowing your nose, coughing into your elbow, and washing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces is also important. Also helpful are social distancing (avoiding others by at least 6 feet) and avoiding crowds in general.
The nutrients we put in our bodies are responsible for so much more than we give them credit for. Getting extra doses of fruits and vegetables in your diet helps your body get the vitamins and minerals it needs to keep your immune system up. Additionally, certain vitamins including B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin D are all important in helping balance mood and anxiety. And minerals including magnesium, iron, selenium, and zinc do the same. These essential nutrients allow our bodies to run like well oiled machines and will help fend off bad moods and bad germs alike. As you've probably noticed cooking has become more popular. It might be an important tool in managing anxiety about COIVD-19. Knowing that you can prepare food and care for yourself can help you feel in better control.
Is right now the time for you to get in the best shape of your life? No. But, 30 minutes of exercise at least 4 times a week is a good goal. This is so important for your sanity and your immune system. Mood boosting endorphins aren't a bad plus either. Additionally, increasing your heart rate during exercise can help the body produce more norepinephrine to help you think more clearly during stressful situations. There are many options available for exercise apps, and videos available on streaming devices. Working out at home can provide you with a variety of choices of exercises that you can do at your convenience, and many don’t even require additional equipment. If you want to maximize the return on your investment in decreasing anxiety about COVID-19, you can incorporate yoga which integrates movement, breathing, and meditation.
Humans are social by nature and, in fact, there is a Zulu word for this: ubuntu. It means, “a person is a person through other people”. We need each other - to do for each other and have done for us; both to be listened to and to hear others. You had friends and family before all this began and, thanks to how advanced our technology is, you’ll be just as close with them, if not closer, when this is all over. Call and text with people, and video chat with someone if you need some actual face to face time. Sharing your feelings and anxieties with others can be cathartic. Keeping in touch will help you feel less isolated. And friends that you're talking to, will probably share similar feelings, which is important for us each to know that we're understood.
Sleep is vital to allow your system to recharge, and recover physically and emotionally. And let’s be honest, if there is a time to aim for 8 hours of sleep, this is it! There are several well established sleep hygiene techniques that are generally useful. These are just a few:
*If you can't fall asleep without the TV because it helps distract you into falling asleep, set a sleep timer! The light and noise from the TV after you’ve fallen asleep, are detrimental to the quality of your sleep.
We're all well aware of the current guidelines advising us to stay home at much as possible. But if you're having difficulty keeping your anxiety about COVID-19 under control, you might want to consider professional help. One way you may note your anxiety to be uncontrolled, is if you notice that your worried thoughts keep you from accomplishing daily tasks. There are many mental health services available through telemedicine or telepsychiatry. Just because you have to stay at home, doesn't mean you have to be without the services you need. At Talkiatry, we can provide you with therapy services and medication management remotely. So no matter where you are or what your situation, we can reach you. Meet our team of providers here.
Talkiatry is a local, accessible and complete mental healthcare solution that accepts insurance. We close the gap for individuals who want to get better, but feel that mental health care has been challenging to navigate up until this point and want a more convenient way to take the first step. Talkiatry takes the traditional local mental health visit and combines it with technology, scale, efficiency, and design to provide the best possible environment for healing.
Talkiatry is a mental health practice, and our clinicians review everything we write. However, articles are never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may need mental health help, talk to a psychiatrist. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.
Dr. Yanina Brayman is double board-certified in adult and forensic psychiatry. She completed her undergraduate training at the University of Pennsylvania and her medical training at New York Medical College. She completed her psychiatry residency training at the New York University School of Medicine and then completed a fellowship in Forensic Psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Dr. Brayman has worked in various inpatient and outpatient medical settings, including hospitals, private practice, and community mental health organizations, where she held leadership roles and taught medical students, residents, and fellows. Additionally, she collaborated with primary care providers as a consulting psychiatrist to help them treat various mental health problems.
Dr. Brayman has extensive experience treating a wide range of patients. She emphasizes a collaborative approach tailored to the individual needs of her patients to help them achieve their goals and realize their potential. She uses a holistic approach with a mix of medication management, cognitive behavioral, and supportive psychotherapy along with coaching techniques and lifestyle modifications to help patients achieve, maintain, and optimize wellness.