It has been 4 weeks since our nation has been turned upside down from the Corona virus pandemic. Day by day and state by state, government officials have either enforced stay-at-home rules or encouraged social distancing to help flatten the curve. As an independent family physician, I had been going to work treating sick patients without protective equipment every day. There just wasn’t enough to go around. My days were full of fear as I went from room to room hoping that the flu-like symptoms patients had were benign.
Then once I got home, my nerves continued rattling as I worried about my mother in her senior living home, my dad who has suffered pneumothorax and the rest of my family who is living in the epicenter of the pandemic – NYC. I finally transitioned to working telemedicine from home which allayed the first stressor. But there were still so many adjustments to make to this new normal. I should be happy to be home, out of harms way. But at times I battle with the guilt of knowing that I am not on the frontlines battling with my fellow physicians in this war. I feel guilt that I cannot protect my mother because her facility doesn’t allow visitors. I feel constant sadness that our number of Covid19 cases and deaths are increasing every day. And surprisingly, I am finding the extra free time to be a little overwhelming with a sense of pressure to be more productive.
I am naturally introspective and could immediately identify my emotions as anxiety and sometimes panic would set in. I knew the only way I could make it through this season of uncertainty was to incorporate deliberate strategies to fight off anxiety. Maybe you will find some useful.
- Pick up an old hobby that brings you peace. One of my favorite hobbies is sewing. It just so happened that Sewers are in high demand. Making masks has brought a sense of calmness to my spirit. It has given me a creative outlet and soothes my overactive brain. And lastly, it has given me a sense of purpose during the COVID fight as I am able to help even if I’m not in the hospital.
- Give yourself a loose schedule. Make to-do lists flexible and give yourself a week to complete it. For many of us, 9-5 work days don’t really apply anymore. We are working remotely with virtual meetings and work tasks to complete throughout the day. But when your work is done, pressuring yourself to come up with the world’s greatest business idea may be more than you can handle.
- Cut down on caffeine. Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in coffee, some teas, chocolate, energy drinks and sodas. Instinctively, those foods are commonly consumed especially in times of mental stress. However, the caffeine increases your heart rate and intestinal activity and keeps you alert for several hours. All of these actions will leave you feeling more anxious. A better alternative if you are feeling anxious is to drink calming teas such as camomile and peppermint tea. Difficulty sleeping can be aided with lavender scented diffusers or warm shower with lavender soap before bed.
- Plan a Virtual happy hour. Whether your beverage of choice is water or wine, there’s nothing like seeing your best friend’s face and sharing laughs on a Friday night. I must admit that I show up in my p.j.’s, but I say come as you are:) I have found that I look forward to these virtual dates and it boosts my mood. I’m sure my husband gets tired of hearing my stories everyday so the calls also provide a new audience. You will find that your friends and family may also be experiencing symptoms that can be categorized as anxiety. But positively connecting with family and friends releases certain neurotransmitters in our brain which helps us to feel better. It’s a natural and fun remedy for anxiety and depression. Try Zoom, FaceTime, Instagram, Facebook, or Google Hangouts. They all have camera capabilities.
- Keep your space clean and tidy. Clean spaces allow us to think better. They have an effect on the brain and promote positive energy. If your home is too large or too cluttered, start with a small space single room. If you have a balcony, work on creating your own outdoor oasis. If you have a backyard, the world is your oyster. Maybe you only have a corner in your bedroom. Whatever you’re working with, add your favorite touches whether its bamboo, bright flowers, a Japanese sand box or a portable water fountain, a basket of knitting tools, or a cushion for corner cozying up with a book. Maintaining a space that reflects your style is a sure way to decrease any remaining anxiety.
Let me know what you do to decrease anxiety. I’d love to try it. And remember if you feel your emotions becoming increasingly overwhelming, you should reach out to your healthcare provider. Telemedicine is a convenient way to discuss your concerns.