Anxiety and COVID-19: Emily Risinger

Recent developments with the novel coronavirus, more formally known as COVID-19, have heightened fears. Finding ways to navigate yourself or your children through this can seem challenging. Below are a few points of consideration to help mitigate these stressors. 

Minimize watching or listening to the news. Right now we are inundated with updates and it seems like COVID-19 has permeated every aspect of our lives. We see evidence of it in places like the free cookies at the store no longer being offered. Or the shelves of cold medicine constantly being restocked. Reminders to hand wash are posted everywhere. Limit this in ways you can control. Catch up on the news once a day. If you have kids, try to do this without them in the room. 

Minimize social media. What better way to reinforce cognitive distortions when your buddies are catastrophizing, reposting news stories, or talking about cold symptoms. Take a break from this. Go as far as uninstalling on your phone. You can always go back in the future but maybe right now this isn’t a helpful place.  

List the facts once. Provide updates as reasonable. This may be different depending on developmental age. It cannot be ignored that kids are talking about it at school and there will be a lot of misinformation. Remind them once of what the CDC has stated as facts. Listen to their concerns and validate.

“You may or may not get coronavirus, for now let’s enjoy dinner.”

“Yes, there is a lot of talk about the coronavirus lately.”

“There are people dying and I can understand that you are scared.”

“It sounds tough to be in school when your friends are home with the flu and everyone is talking about COVID-19.”

Hand washing. As an Exposure Therapist, this is the question I have been asked about the most. How much hand washing is OK? Want to know the secret? This is something you will have to define for yourself. Generally if you feel like it is consuming too much time, or you are obsessing over germs, contact your therapist. 

Spend fun time together. Help your child have some stress-free time in the moment. This will encourage and model healthy self-care for your child. You know the things they like. Do this. If you are an adult, spend time with your partner, best friend, loved one or dog. If you prefer some alone time, take advantage of the warm weather and go for a walk. Nature is a great distraction. You know what you enjoy to do. Trust yourself and spend time doing those things. Acknowledge when the worries pop up and redirect your thoughts to the present. 

Ultimately, go on with your life. Do the day to day things. Don’t isolate, cancel get-togethers or miss out on school or work. It is important to stick with your routine. If the worries get too strong, contact your therapist to get some support. 

A helpful comic from NPR about navigating COVID-19