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Reducing Stress and Anxiety During a Global Pandemic

Mar 31, 2020

Reducing Stress and Anxiety During a Global Pandemic
By Tabitha Hochscheid, Hochscheid & Associates, LLC
Health and Well Being Committee chair

 

We are living in unprecedented times. COVID-19 is not just a disease of the body; the threat of COVID-19 can affect a person’s mental health, as well. There are plenty of COVID-19-related health and financial worries. Stress is something every person in our country feels. After all, stress is a natural response to an event or stressor. Stress is a normal part of living, and certainly understandable in the face of a pandemic. The big concern is that for some of us, stress can turn into anxiety. Since lawyers are twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder, it is important to know when your stress reaction has morphed into anxiety and how to handle both.

COVID-19 is a huge stressor which will eventually go away. How long that will take, no one really knows. Luckily, washing your hands, cleaning your work and home environment and staying at home are great ways to control that stressor. When you do these things, you are actively managing your stressor.

Anxiety looks a lot like stress, but the key difference is with anxiety, you are not able to let the worry go when the stressor goes away. So, if you are at home reading this ,and you or someone in your home is obsessively worried about getting COVID-19, even though you have done everything possible to minimize your chances of contracting it, then you may have anxiety. I think its fair to say many of us have had some level of anxiety about COVID-19.

The good news is that stress and anxiety both respond to various management techniques which include:

  • Eat a balanced diet.
    We all stress eat but at this point eating a well-balanced diet is important not just for managing stress but also for maintaining your health.
  • Stay physically active.
    Even if you can’t go to the gym, you can do something physical every day. Take a walk with your dog or put on an exercise video. I’m teaching myself to do yoga with the help of YouTube. YouTube has many exercise related videos and some local yoga studios or gyms are streaming classes as well.
  • Practice good sleep habits.
    Continue your existing sleep routines. I am maintaining my regular wake and bedtimes. I also listen to binaural music, which is designed to calm and relax me for sleep.
  • Do something to calm your mind.
    There are many things that calm your mind. Meditation, prayer, journaling, knitting, walks in nature, or gardening are all contemplative activities. Find something positive which calms you down and helps you relax. Perhaps a new hobby is in order or a good book.

    Finally, my own personal practice includes limiting my exposure to news about COVID-19. This is a pandemic and our news media are giving us a minute by minute coverage. You do not need to follow this crisis minute by minute. I limit my exposure to 30 minutes twice a day and I don’t watch cable news. I prefer to get my information from national and local papers online. I also limit my social media time. Facebook can drive up your anxiety even when there isn’t a pandemic.

    There are plenty of online resources which can help you learn more about anxiety and provide you with coping strategies:
  • Check out this great discussion from The New York Times on worry, stress, anxiety and their differences. 
  • The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley is a great resource. Check out this quiz to assess stress and anxiety
    and podcasts on a variety of issues.
  • The Ohio Department of Health has a page devoted to coping with COVID-19 anxiety.
  • The CBA’s YouTube channel contains most of our Balanced Living Lectures. You can find lectures on nutrition, sleep, meditation and exercise there.

    In closing, remember: in this time of stress, you are not alone. We are all in this struggle together, and this too shall pass. Be kind to yourself. Self-care is more important now that ever. Be well, stay safe and of course, wash your hands.

 

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