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Anxiety in the time of COVID: How should I be feeling right now?

Trying to fight anxiety during the time of COVID is like trying to swim against a massive current.  If you’re like myself, your phone is flooded with headlines and pictures updating you on the latest news regarding the virus, your facebook and social media is inundated with updates about personal loss and political arguments that stir up a myriad of emotion.  Seeing people wearing masks outside and the streets emptier than usual brings about a dystopian flavor to society.  You might find yourself asking the question “how am I supposed to feel right now?”

When asked how people are feeling, most will answer “Anxious!” It is no wonder that trouble sleeping, difficulty focusing, agoraphobia, ocd, dysthymia, separation anxiety, depression have all kicked into high gear right now. Give yourself permission to feel all the feelings, sadness, grief, confusion, boredom, anger, anxiety. Fighting these feelings is like trying to prevent air from filling your lungs. At this point, we are all collectively feeling IT.  How do we get back to a sense of normalcy?

Anxiety lives and thrives where control has escaped us. It dominates the room and can fill every crevice if you let it. The key to feeling less anxious and the goal of treatment is to help re-establish a sense of control where anxiety previously occupied the space. How do we get back our control?

Give yourself a time, whether it’s a few minutes to an hour, each day to allow a window of worrying. Set an alarm on your phone if you have to. Read the headlines, plug in and go through the discomfort of worrying about it all, the world, the next door neighbor, your family, yourself. But after that alarm rings, Move On to something else. By allowing yourself to worry, you are telling your anxiety that it has a limited window to hurt you and after that window closes, you will move on and do something else with yourself. Now is the time to do things you have put off. If you push the anxiety down and try to avoid it, it will boil over eventually. Give this worry window the time of day, do not set it too close to bedtime.  It is important to keep in mind that this too shall pass.  Until then, channel your emotion, your anxiety into something healthy and positive such as exercise, cooking, find something that felt great about your day and keep repeating it in subsequent days and thereafter.

Wishing you good physical and mental health - Dr. Bekker.

Dr. Yana Bekker, DO Dr. Bekker is a board certified Psychiatrist in private practice in Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY.

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