Many local, state, and national municipalities are taking steps to help safeguard their citizens by implementing new rules, laws, and procedures in an attempt to limit and contain the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic in March of 2020.
To stop the spread of COVID-19, health officials and authorities worldwide are recommending (and sometimes requiring) that people around the globe "self-quarantine" or "shelter-in-place." If you need support with travel anxiety during this time, a therapist may be able to help, though there are also strategies that you can use on your own to help manage your mental health during this time.
Social Distancing, Sheltering-In-Place, And Self-Quarantine
According to health experts, social distancing precautions can help limit the spread of the coronavirus via person-to-person contact. As a result, many cities worldwide have placed a ban on travel and leisure activities, asking the public to temporarily halt participation in non-essential services (especially group gatherings and social activities).
This means that businesses, public venues, restaurants, schools, and other places where people typically gather daily have virtually come to a standstill in some areas.
Though these restrictions are lessening now that we are two years into the pandemic, many families are hunkering down and preparing to shelter-in-place (except for essentials) as new variants emerge.
This daily concern about health, life, and our loved ones has led to as much as a 25% increase in anxiety around the globe. People who have anxiety on an ordinary day may feel the pressure of world events increasing or intensifying their anxiety symptoms. With the latest news surrounding the pandemic, people around the world are wondering how to stay calm.
Tip #1. Take A Break From The News
More cases of COVID-19 are being reported every day. With the entire world on the edge of its seat, it's no wonder that people living with anxiety and related mental health disorders are having higher-than-normal bouts of anxiety.
It's important to keep up with the news about the virus to make the best health decisions for you and your family, but this doesn't mean you should stay tuned in every second of the day. Instead, it's all right to check verified news sources periodically for important updates from local and regional news outlets and public health decision-makers.
Tip #2. Get Your Blood Flowing With Short Bursts Of Exercise
Getting your blood flowing is one of the best ways to expend negative energy and to get yourself out of your own head and worries, and into the moment as you focus on moving and breathing. Your mind and body will thank you for doing a few minutes of yoga stretches, deep breathing exercises, cardio, weightlifting – whatever works best for you.
Studies have found that exercise not only benefits our bodies but our brains as well! Even just ten minutes of focused activity can help reduce stress hormones, release feel-good endorphins, and increase blood-oxygen levels (which in turn helps our brains function more efficiently).
Tip # 3. Organize And Catch Up On Overdue Projects, Homework, Etc...
Remember all of those projects you've been putting off because you didn't have time to do them last year? Now is a great time to tackle projects around the house that have been needing attention. If you're not a DIY expert, don't be afraid to use internet resources for simple ways to complete your projects.
You'll likely feel an added sense of relief when you look at all you've accomplished. The anxiety surrounding these unfinished tasks can fade, and you'll feel better knowing you're still making steady progress toward your goals.
Tip #4. Create A Daily Schedule To Combat Anxiety And Boredom
One of the biggest drivers of anxiety in our lives can be not knowing what to do next. If you experience anxiety, you may benefit from writing out a daily schedule that outlines how you will spend your day. This way, you’re less likely to worry about forgetting something, and checking things off as you complete them can boost your mood.
Parents, in particular, who have children out of school and who also experience anxiety will likely benefit from creating a schedule and following it until things get back to normal. Balancing working from home, managing a home, and taking care of your children while also ensuring that they still focus on schooling from home can take a toll and increase stress and anxiety. Writing out a schedule for both yourself and potentially for your children can help all of you to stay on track and feel less anxious.
Tip #5. Check-In With Yourself By Practicing Self-Care
It should go without saying that practicing self-care during times of high stress can help reduce this stress as well as anxiety. However, many of us forget to take care of ourselves until we start feeling run-down, overwhelmed, or extremely anxious. Take advantage of the downtime associated with COVID-19 and practice some self-care exercises. The following are eight examples of self-care activities you can do at home:
- Salt Bath
- Hot Tea/Hot Chocolate
- Couples Massage
- Deep Breathing Exercises
- Deep Stretching Exercises
Tip #6. Follow The Advice Of Your Local And Regional Health Authorities
The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are two primary resources responsible for monitoring and reporting updates on COVID-19. These two organizations are working together with other public health and safety organizations to contain and reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
The WHO recommends these basic measures at this time:
- Wash your hands frequently; maintain good hygiene to prevent the spread of viruses and germs.
- Practice social distancing; maintain at least six feet between you and others.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to prevent transferring germs from contact.
- Practice good respiratory hygiene. Use tissues or your elbow when coughing or sneezing.
If you have a fever, cough, and chills, seek medical care early - call your medical provider by phone before going to any facility.
If you have been advised to "shelter-in-place," follow the rules and regulations set by your local public health department and your local authorities. Verify your information sources, and don't rely on gossip or social media to make critical decisions.
Tip #7. Talk To A Mental Health Professional Online
If your anxiety seems to be increasing and getting in the way of daily life, reach out to a mental health professional online for guidance and support. A licensed mental health professional can provide distance-therapy and real-time options for coping with the anxiety surrounding COVID-19, as well as many other mental health conditions and concerns.
For people who aren't able to go into therapists’ or doctors’ offices because of self-imposed quarantine and local shelter-in-place restrictions, there are several options for getting support from the comfort of your home.
Online counseling is one such option, and studies show that it can improve your mental health. One such study from Palo Alto University found that video-based cognitive behavior therapy is effective in treating depression and anxiety. According to the research, approximately 73% of study participants saw an improvement of symptoms after six weeks, and the data suggests a “decelerated decrease in symptoms over time.”
Therapists and counselors at BetterHelp are available online to help you ease symptoms of anxiety and stress. BetterHelp also offers affordable pricing options typically comparable with most insurance plans’ co-pays, making it an economical choice. Consider the following reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people seeking support with their mental health during the pandemic.
“Tonya has been an amazing support system during COVID and during a life-changing time that is extremely difficult emotionally & physically. She has helped me to feel less overwhelmed as well as validating my feelings. I strongly recommend her!”
“Lisa was just an incredible person to work with. I work in the healthcare industry and was feeling like I was going to lose my mind with the COVID-19 virus first and second wave, she was just the best person for me during this time. She guides you on how to work with your feelings and grow from them, how to work out your brain, and how you can train your thoughts to make life a little bit more manageable each day. I was suffering from crippling anxiety (that eventually turned into physical symptoms), panic attacks, depression, and fatigue from work/COVID. She listens to you and reflects with you about how these situations are hard and that you have every right to these feelings. She also would provide a different perspective that would just help bring you back down to earth and reminds you that you are human, and we can all grow from every hard situation and scenario. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Lisa and will always be grateful to her for the new perspective on life and all of the new tools I have to help manage life, which has made me feel like a better person. Thank you, Lisa! I hope to reconnect with you soon!”
Things like getting regular exercise, practicing mindfulness, giving yourself some daily self-care and self-love, and more can all help with managing the increased mental and physical stresses that many of us have experienced over the past two years. Additionally, online therapy can be a safe, effective resource and source of support to help you improve and maintain your mental health and overall well-being.
What are the mental effects of social distancing?
Social distancing, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, can have various mental and emotional effects on individuals. Some of the common mental effects include:
- Isolation and Loneliness: Social distancing may lead to physical isolation, which can trigger feelings of loneliness and social isolation.
- Anxiety and Stress: The uncertainty and fear associated with a pandemic, coupled with the social and economic disruptions it brings, can contribute to increased levels of anxiety and stress. Concerns about personal health, the health of loved ones, and the future can weigh heavily on individuals.
- Depression: Prolonged social isolation and stress can contribute to depressive symptoms. Reduced opportunity to receive social support and coping mechanisms can make it challenging to manage these symptoms.
Can isolating yourself cause social anxiety?
Isolating oneself for prolonged periods can contribute to the development or exacerbation of social anxiety, although it's not the sole cause. Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, is a mental health condition characterized by an intense fear of social situations and a strong desire to avoid them. It can be triggered by various factors, and social isolation is one of them.
Did COVID lockdown cause social anxiety?
The COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns have had a significant impact on mental health, and for some individuals, they may have contributed to the development or exacerbation of social anxiety while social distancing. Here are some ways in which the COVID-19 lockdowns may have influenced social anxiety:
- Isolation and Reduced Social Interaction: Lockdowns and social distancing measures often resulted in reduced social interaction and physical isolation which may have lead to more anxiety. This reduction in social exposure may have lead to individuals feeling less comfortable in social situations, especially if they were already prone to social anxiety.
- Increased Health and Safety Concerns: Concerns about the risk of COVID-19 transmission during social interactions could contribute to heightened anxiety and avoidance of social situations. Individuals may have become more fearful of social gatherings or crowded places.
- Disruption of Routines: Lockdowns disrupted daily routines and activities, making it challenging for some individuals to engage in the social interactions and activities they were accustomed to. This disruption can lead to discomfort and anxiety when reintegrating into social life.
What are 3 coping strategies for anxiety?
There are many effective coping strategies for anxiety, and individuals may find certain strategies more helpful than others depending on anxiety severity. Here are three common coping strategies for managing anxiety:
Deep Breathing and Relaxation Techniques:
- Deep breathing exercises can help reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety. Practice diaphragmatic breathing by taking slow, deep breaths, inhaling through your nose for a count of four, holding for a count of four, and exhaling through your mouth for a count of four.
- Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups in the body. This can help release physical tension associated with anxiety.
- Mindfulness meditation and guided imagery techniques can promote relaxation and reduce anxious thoughts. These practices involve focusing on the present moment and letting go of worries about the future.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):
- CBT is a widely used therapeutic approach for managing anxiety. It involves identifying and challenging irrational or negative believes or thought patterns that contribute to anxiety. By replacing these thoughts with more rational and positive ones, individuals can reduce anxiety.
- CBT also includes exposure therapy, where individuals gradually confront their fears and anxieties in a controlled and supportive environment. This can help desensitize them to anxiety-provoking situations.
Lifestyle and Self-Care Practices:
- Regular physical activity, such as walking, jogging, or yoga, can help reduce anxiety by releasing endorphins and promoting a sense of well-being.
- Maintaining a balanced diet and avoiding excessive caffeine and alcohol can help stabilize mood and reduce anxiety.
- Getting enough sleep may be crucial for managing anxiety. Lack of sleep can exacerbate anxious feelings, so practicing good sleep hygiene is essential.
- Setting realistic goals, managing time effectively, and practicing stress-reduction techniques, such as time management and relaxation exercises, can reduce stress and anxiety.
What is social distancing in psychology?
Social distancing in psychology refers to a set of behaviors and measures that individuals take to maintain physical separation from others in order to reduce the spread of contagious diseases, particularly during pandemics. It involves minimizing close physical contact and avoiding crowded spaces where the risk of disease transmission is higher. Social distancing may have a psychological impact on individuals and may increase anxiety and depression symptoms.
What is self-distancing in psychology?
Self-distancing in psychology refers to the process of stepping back from one's immediate emotional or personal experience to adopt a more objective and detached perspective. It involves viewing one's thoughts, feelings, and situations as an impartial observer, as if you were looking at them from a third-person perspective. This psychological technique allows individuals to gain perspective, reduce emotional reactivity, and make more rational decisions.
Does social anxiety get worse with age?
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, can vary in its presentation and severity among individuals. Whether social anxiety gets worse with age is not a fixed rule, as it can depend on various factors. Here are some considerations:
- Early Intervention: Early recognition and intervention can make a significant difference. If someone with social anxiety seeks treatment, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or medication, at a young age, they may learn effective coping strategies that can mitigate the progression of the disorder.
- Life Changes: Life changes and experiences can influence the course of social anxiety. Some people find that their social anxiety decreases as they gain life experience and become more comfortable in social situations. However, for others, life events or transitions, such as moving to a new place, starting a new job, or experiencing relationship changes, can trigger or exacerbate social anxiety.
- Coping Strategies: Individuals who develop effective coping strategies and a support system are more likely to manage their social anxiety successfully over time. These strategies might include therapy, medication, self-help techniques, and social skills training.
- Isolation: If individuals with social anxiety withdraw from social interactions and become increasingly isolated as they age, it can lead to a worsening of the condition. Isolation may limit exposure to social situations and opportunities for skill-building.
- Co-occurring Conditions: The presence of other mental health conditions, such as depression or substance use disorders, can complicate the course of social anxiety and make it more challenging to manage over time.
- Hormonal Changes: Some individuals report that their social anxiety symptoms fluctuate in response to hormonal changes, such as those associated with menopause or certain medical conditions.
What causes an increase of social anxiety?
Social anxiety can be influenced by a combination of genetic, psychological, environmental, and situational factors. Several factors can lead to an increase in social anxiety or trigger its onset:
- Genetics: There is evidence to suggest that anxiety disorders can run in families. Genetic factors may predispose some individuals to be more susceptible to social anxiety.
- Psychological Factors: Negative thought patterns, self-doubt, and excessive self-criticism can contribute to the development and exacerbation of social anxiety. These cognitive factors may be influenced by early life experiences and learned behaviors.
- Social and Environmental Factors: Experiences of social humiliation, rejection, or bullying during childhood or adolescence can contribute to the development of social anxiety. Negative social experiences in adulthood can also exacerbate social anxiety.
- Traumatic Events: Traumatic experiences, such as public humiliation or embarrassing incidents, can lead to increased social anxiety. These events can create lasting emotional scars and fears related to social interactions.
- Perfectionism: A strong desire to appear perfect in the eyes of others can increase social anxiety. The fear of making mistakes or being judged negatively can be a driving factor.
- Low Self-Esteem: Individuals with low self-esteem may be more prone to social anxiety, as they often perceive themselves as unworthy or inferior in social situations.
- Life Transitions: Major life changes, such as starting a new job, moving to a new location, or entering a new stage of life, can trigger or exacerbate social anxiety. These changes often involve increased social interactions and the need to adapt to new social environments.
- Substance Use: The use of alcohol or other substances to cope with social anxiety can lead to an increase in symptoms and may contribute to the development of a co-occurring substance use disorder.
- Physical Health Issues: Certain medical conditions or medications can have side effects that mimic or exacerbate social anxiety symptoms.
- Personality Factors: Personality traits, such as introversion or shyness, may not directly cause social anxiety but can be associated with a higher risk of developing the disorder.
Why is anxiety more common now?
The increased prevalence of anxiety and related psychological disorders in recent years can be attributed to a combination of social, cultural, technological, and environmental factors. Here are some key reasons why anxiety appears to be more common now:
- Increased Awareness and Diagnosis: There is greater awareness of mental health conditions in clinical psychology, including anxiety, which has led to more people seeking help after a rapid review of symptoms, and receiving a diagnosis. This awareness and systematic review has reduced the stigma associated with mental health concerns, making it more acceptable to discuss and seek treatment for anxiety.
- Social and Economic Stressors: Modern society is marked by various stressors, such as financial stress, job insecurity, and high academic expectations. These stressors can contribute to the development or exacerbation of anxiety.
- Social Media and Technology: The rise of social media and technology has changed the way people interact and communicate. While technology has many benefits, it can also lead to social comparison, cyberbullying, and the constant pressure to be online and connected. These factors can contribute to anxiety as well as depressive symptoms, particularly among younger generations.
- Information Overload: The constant influx of information and mental data collection through digital media can be overwhelming and contribute to anxiety. The 24/7 news cycle and exposure to negative or distressing news can increase feelings of stress and anxiety.
- Isolation: Despite the interconnectedness facilitated by technology, some individuals may experience increased feelings of isolation and loneliness due to a lack of social contact, which can be associated with anxiety.
Why am I purposely isolating myself?
There can be various reasons why someone may purposely isolate themselves. It's essential to understand that isolation can be a coping mechanism or a response to underlying issues. Here are some possible reasons for self-imposed isolation:
- Mental Health Conditions: Many people with mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, social anxiety disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder, may isolate themselves as a way of dealing with their symptoms. They might avoid social situations because they feel overwhelmed or anxious in social settings.
- Stress and Overwhelm: High levels of stress or overwhelming life situations can lead individuals to isolate themselves to find solace and reduce sensory input. Isolation may provide a sense of control and calm during turbulent times.
- Past Trauma: Individuals who have experienced trauma, such as abuse or a traumatic event, may isolate themselves to avoid triggers or to protect themselves from further harm.
- Low Self-Esteem: Low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness can lead to self-isolation. Some people may believe they are a burden to others or fear rejection, leading them to withdraw.
- Grief and Loss: The grieving process can be emotionally taxing, and some people may isolate themselves to navigate their grief alone. They may feel more comfortable processing their emotions alone.
- Burnout: Physical and emotional exhaustion can lead to self-imposed isolation as a way to recharge and regain energy. It can be a form of self-care.
- Lifestyle and Habits: Some individuals may simply prefer solitude or have developed a lifestyle that involves minimal social interaction. This can be a conscious choice.
- Relationship Issues: Problems in personal relationships or conflicts with friends and family can lead to isolation as a way of avoiding further tension.
- Substance Use: Individuals struggling with substance use disorders may isolate themselves to hide their addiction or to engage in substance use without judgment.
- Fear of Judgement: Fear of being judged or criticized by others can be a powerful motivator for self-imposed isolation.
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