Updated: Mar 20, 2020
I don't know anyone who is not experiencing anxiety about covid-19 (coronavirus). We're all waiting to see how this virus will hit our communities, our families, the country, and other parts of the world. Here in San Francisco, we are in the "calm before the storm," and doesn't the wait seems excruciating?
Personally, I've been feeling restless, scattered, anxiousness, full of intrusive thoughts, tired, wired, physically tense. This is just some of what I've identified in the last week of social distancing.
The anticipation of pain and discomfort is something that our vigilant and risk-averse brains, evolutionarily-speaking, tend to run a bit wild with. Basically, our minds and bodies want to DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS HORRIBLE THING THAT IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN!
This is a normal healthy reaction, even if it isn't an enjoyable one.
This threat is throwing us into a primitive and often useful (not so much right now) fight/flee/freeze reaction. However, we are being asked to sit still and be patient while sheltered in place. Most of us are experiencing that our minds and bodies are not designed to sit still in the presence of a threat. We want to troubleshoot, solve, fill in blanks, learn about the danger while our bodies are being pumped full of hormones telling us to do something, DO SOMETHING! DO ANYTHING!
Once you've read the guidelines at cdc.org, there is little else to do about covid-19. So we keep our hands clean and our social distanced in hopes of "lowering the curve." But who knew that giving our medical professionals a fighting chance to help the people who need medical attention would be so passive?
Here are some ideas for what we can do about the physical effect of being suspended in fight/flee/freeze while confined to our homes.
Move around. Pull out those old fitness DVDs or look up some yoga vids on youtube
Stretch. Take your time and focus on your breath
Take a warm shower in the evening. Focus on your breath and slowly tour through your senses one at a time (what are 5 things I can hear/smell/feel right now?)
Take a warm bath in the evening. Even better and more novel than a shower, light some candles and bring a book or music.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This is a common and useful technique for managing the physical effects of anxiety, panic, and sleeplessness. You'll want to learn and practice this throughout the day, before bed and when you wake up in the middle of the night with your mind racing.
STAY SOCIAL. Ask your friends to virtually join you in trying (some) of these activities. Don't underestimate the connecting power of a video chat date or activity.
Get creative! Come up with your own, take notes on what works well, and how you might change things up. Brainstorm with your friends.