All Posts Tagged: covid 19

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Is The Coronavirus Pandemic Affecting Your Mental Health?

For months we’ve been hearing about the spread of the coronavirus and rising COVID-19 death rates. Some areas of the country have begun to slowly reopen, but others still remain either locked down or people are very restricted. While we tend to think of the virus in terms of health and physical illness, there is also a mental health toll to the fear and stay-at-home orders that have resulted from the pandemic.

What Are The Effects Of COVID-19 On Mental Health?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the mental health effects of the stress generated by coping with COVID-19 can include:

  • “Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs”

We all react to stress differently, therefore not everyone will experience the same concerns. Some people, however, are dealing with several of these challenges, particularly if they suffered from anxiety or depression before the pandemic.

People who may have a harder time dealing with the mental health effects of the coronavirus are those who:

  • Are first responders, such as front-line doctors and nurses
  • Have loved ones who have gotten the virus (whether or not they have recovered)
  • Are already dealing with mental health concerns
  • Engage in substance abuse
  • Have been temporarily laid off or have lost their jobs
  • Are in abusive relationships
  • Are over age 65
  • Have chronic medical conditions

Anxiety Symptoms

When we are faced with the unknown, fear and anxiety can take on a life of its own.

If you are already someone who is anxious, you might find that you are now having physical symptom, as well. Maybe you are having headaches or stomach problems. Maybe you aren’t sleeping well or are having trouble or eating. Whenever someone experiences new symptoms, worry and fear can quickly become overwhelming.

Anxiety can also become evident through psychological symptoms, such as:

  • Having trouble concentrating or insistently worrying about the virus
  • Being short-tempered with your family or others
  • Feeling like you are constantly “on edge”
  • Worrying that you are losing control

In addition to psychological symptoms, there are other physical symptoms of anxiety that can include:

  • A rapid heartbeat and/or shortness of breath
  • Insomnia and problems sleeping, which leaves you fatigued
  • Headaches or an increase in migraines
  • Nausea, sweating, muscle tension

Reducing Stress And Anxiety During The Pandemic

These self-care tips can help you regain control and reduce your anxiety about the coronavirus:

Stop watching coverage of the pandemic: The first thing you should do is to stop watching the news and reading about the pandemic online. When something grips us with fear, it is sometimes hard to break away from the catastrophic thoughts that come along with it. By continuously engaging in news coverage, however, you don’t give your mind a chance to gain some mental distance from it.

Keep in mind that news coverage is often designed to be presented in a way that makes us tense and concerned. This is what compels us to click on the new report or tune into the television station – and it’s what keeps the reporters or news channels in business.

Don’t focus on physical symptoms: If you know a symptom of the virus is a cough, for example, it’s natural to scrutinize every tiny cough you have. But remember that there are other, more likely causes of a new physical symptom than the coronavirus.

This is also allergy season, which can cause a cough. You may have been around dust or be dehydrated, which could cause a sore throat. The point is that there are numerous reasons for many of the symptoms of the virus that are normal and not a result of being sick.

Do some stress reducing activities: Meditate, take a walk, sit on your patio in the sunshine, or try an online yoga class. Take one of the endless online classes and virtual museum tours that have popped up during this time of social distancing. Being active lessens the stress hormone, cortisol, and also serves as a distraction.

Additionally, you might focus on doing something you’ve been meaning to do, such as clean out a drawer or a closet, organize a closet, paint a room, or plant spring flowers.

Professional Therapy For Covid-19 Anxiety

Sometimes self-care is not enough to get relief from anxiety. If your symptoms seem to be getting worse or if you find that a couple of weeks have gone by and you are still feeling more anxious than you think you should about the pandemic, you may have developed an anxiety disorder. In that case, it’s best to turn to a professional.

They can help you sort out your fears and gain a new perspective. Just talking through your concerns may be enough to reduce them, however speaking to a therapist can benefit you in many other ways as you navigate this pandemic.

The vast majority of mental health practitioners are using tele therapy to aid their clients during the shutdown, as well as after reopening. With tele therapy, you can talk to your therapist from your home – there is no need to go into the office.

 If it is decided that you would benefit from therapy, treatment may include one or a combination of these:

  • Cognitive behavior therapy, which can help you get a better understanding of your anxiety and teach you ways to cope.
  • Mindfulness training, which teaches you to refocus your attention away from thoughts about your fears and your symptoms.
  • Medication, which is also sometimes used short term and in combination with other forms of therapy. If you would benefit from a medication, the therapist may prescribe it or your primary care physician could do so.

Virtual Anxiety Help

If you find that you are experience anxiety due to the coronavirus pandemic that is persistent, seemingly uncontrollable, overwhelming and disabling, you may have an anxiety disorder. If your symptoms get worse or persist for longer than two weeks, please speak to one of our trained mental health professionals.

For more information, please contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 today. 

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Stress Relief For Dealing With COVID 19 Anxiety

The worldwide outbreak of COVID 19 has thrown everyone into chaos. For starters, we’re all worried about catching the virus. Some of us are dealing with financial stressors due to layoffs. Then there is the strain of having kids and spouses at home 24/7. In addition, medical workers are caring for numerous sick and dying patients, as well as the fear of bringing the virus home to their families. For many of us, this sudden upending of the world we knew has led to unprecedented anxiety levels and an inability to cope with it all.

Taking Control Of Your Coronavirus Anxiety

We all have natural reactions to the fears and stressors in our lives. We want to feel better, so we turn to certain behaviors to try to settle ourselves down.

There are, however, both positive and negative coping behaviors. For example, exercise can be a positive coping method, while excessive drinking is a negative response.

How we choose to cope also varies because stress is made up of several components. Each aspect causes us to respond differently, yet they each can affect us deeply.

  • Psychological stress – The fight or flight response is activated under the psychological stress of fear. For some, there may be reactions in the body, such as a pounding heart, racing pulse, or headache. Others experience a cognitive response, including confusion or obsessively thinking or worrying about the stressor.
  • Physical stress reactions -If you have underlying physical conditions (irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, or asthma, for example), you may find those symptoms coming up more frequently when you are under stress. You also might be constantly fatigued or may have difficulty sleeping.
  • Emotional stress response – You may feel numb or, conversely, you might be jumpy or angry and find it difficult to turn off your fearful thoughts. You might also unintentionally withdraw from others as a way to protect yourself emotionally.

Self-Care For Coronavirus Stress

We can actually amplify our own responses by dwelling on our fears. While it is perfectly natural to worry and ask “why” or “what if,” fixating on trying to find the answers only increases our anxiety, which escalates our frustration and emotional responses.

To help reduce your anxiety about COVID 19:

  • Turn off the news – and especially don’t watch it right before you go to bed. If you start watching news coverage then, you are more likely to start your mind running again, which means you may ruminate on the upsetting facts and figures while trying to sleep. Instead, pick a time earlier in the day to watch news updates. Then turn off the news (or shut down the internet) and do something enjoyable to help your emotions settle down.
  • Do the same with emails and social media – try to compartmentalize these activities so that you aren’t constantly going back to them throughout the day. If possible, spend an hour on them earlier in the day (you may need to set a timer!), then shut them down. Don’t go back to them until the following day.
  • If your anxiety is waking you in the middle of the night, get up and write down your thoughts. It can be helpful for you to put pen to paper because the act of writing your fears and worries often makes you feel like you have gotten them out and can let them go.

The antidote to anxiety is to get out of your head and get into your body. Grounding exercises, like those used in mindfulness, can help you settle your physical body down and take your mind (or emotional body) out of the trauma.

By “settling down,” I mean to calm down into your body by turning your attention inward to the feeling of your breathing. In focusing on the physical, you distract yourself from the emotional component of stress.

Things that require the sensation of touch – like knitting, kneading dough, folding laundry, or exercising – can also help to let you turn the upsetting thoughts off so you can let them go.

Here is a simple mindfulness exercise to try:

  • Sit in a straight-backed chair, glasses off, eyes closed or using an unfocused gaze.
  • Put your feet flat on floor.
  • Feel your feet on the floor, noticing the connection between the soles of your feet and the floor.
  • The idea is to engage your senses, so make an effort to feel your legs and back against the chair and your shoulders opening wide.
  • Sit up, but don’t be rigid. Don’t lean forward or push back against the chair, just relax.
  • Breathe slowly and calmly. This activates the relaxation response because slowing your breathing tells your body that there is no reason for alarm.
  • If you notice any pains or twinges, just acknowledge them and let them go. Bring your awareness to just below your navel and try to feel your body from the inside out.
  • As you feel your body and center your thoughts on it, imagine the tension and energy of your racing thoughts coming down into your abdomen.
  • Now, picture this energy sinking down through your legs and feet and flowing out into the floor or ground below you. Simply focus on relaxing and letting go.
  • Let any thoughts that come up float by. Don’t give them any emphasis or attention. Don’t judge yourself for having them.
  • Take a few moments to enjoy the release of your tension. Focus on your slow breathing.
  • When you are ready to tune in to the world again, press your feet gently against the floor, wiggle around slightly, gently shake your hands and then open your eyes.

We Can Help You Feel Safe

If you try these ideas for self-care and are still struggling with anxiety, know that many practitioners are continuing to see patients virtually during the pandemic. If your stress is interfering with your daily life and has continued for longer than two to three weeks, it’s time to reach out and get the help you need.

For more information, please contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 today.  

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How Coronavirus News Coverage Can Activate PTSD

As the world struggles with the global coronavirus pandemic, we are learning how to deal with the “new normal.” Health care workers are going without breaks or days off. Families are coping with layoffs and have been thrown into homeschooling their children. The majority of us are under stay-at-home orders. The outcome of such undue psychological stress creates anxiety and can trigger symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Watching the constant news coverage of the outbreak doesn’t help.

The therapists at the Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders have long been concerned about the repetitive exposure to traumatic life events that people get through the internet and television newscasts. Not only are we captive audiences to the trauma, we are often mesmerized by it and can have trouble disconnecting ourselves from the TV set or internet.

Trauma Symptoms In The Wake Of COVID19

Right now, we all are experiencing this pandemic in our own unique way. Our daily lives have changed, seemingly overnight. Watching the news coverage of the infections and deaths around the globe, combined with our own worries for our loved ones and ourselves, has created a psychological trauma for many.

This trauma leaves people shaken, especially because we have little to no control over the virus. Numerous times in the last few weeks, I’ve heard people say, “I had no idea this could happen.” Thus, we feel helpless in the face of the virus’ persistent march.

This unrelenting distress can bring up the emotions surrounding other traumatic life events. For those who suffer from PTSD, it can also intensify the inescapable fear that something bad will happen to them again.

Even though these emotional responses are part of a normal reaction to a stressful situation, trauma actually changes patterns in your brain. It causes you to carry the emotional distress long after the events have passed. And, watching untold hours of news coverage keeps that distress actively whirling through our minds.

Self Care For Stress During The Coronavirus Outbreak

If you know someone who has had the virus, you are likely experiencing a heightened fear that you could also get it. Additionally, since most of us know the virus’ symptoms by now, getting the runny nose that defines allergy season or the cough that may come with the pollen from budding trees can send us into a panic.

Couple this with the fact that we don’t have a timeframe for when our lives can get back to normal and it seems that a trauma response and some form of PTSD is almost inevitable for many people.

To support yourself emotionally during the outbreak, it will help if you can normalize your environment as much as possible. By that I mean:

  • Try to create a routine. Get out of your pajamas and dress for a regular day. Keep to an exercise schedule and a meal schedule. Block off time for certain activities, such as helping your children with school work or reading through emails. Structure helps you feel more stable and in control.
  • Back off on the news coverage about the pandemic. Limit yourself to watching the news for an hour or less and do so several hours before bedtime so you don’t carry your distress into your sleep.
  • Don’t beat yourself up for how you feel. It is perfectly normal to flounder a little while you adjust to this uncertain period in our lives.
  • At the same time, be kind to yourself and those around you. Understand that they are going through similar fears, so try to take a step back before getting angry with someone (or yourself). Remember that fear is often expressed as anger.
  • Get plenty of rest and eat as healthy a diet as possible.
  • Engage in exercise to help relieve your stress. If you are worried about going outside, try jumping jacks or climbing the stairs in your home. I just saw a news report of a man who completed a marathon in his own back yard by running back and forth across the yard more than 7,000 times. While I am not advising that you suddenly attempt a back yard marathon, the point is to do what you can to get some exercise.
  • Create a sense of safety by playing calming music, meditating, or “walking through” our national parks virtually.
  • Keep in touch with friends and loved ones virtually. Many people are creating virtual dinner parties via a video platform, like Zoom or Skype, for example, or playing online games virtually with friends.
  • Avoid destructive diversions, such as drinking alcohol, binge eating, or using illicit drugs.

For some people – especially the healthcare workers who are dealing with the virus on the front lines or those who have lost loved ones – the trauma response could morph into full blown PTSD. If you find your trauma symptoms are becoming overwhelming, don’t try to go it alone.

Many practitioners, including those at our trauma clinic, are able to see patients virtually during the pandemic. Reach out and get the help you need, particularly if your stress if interfering with your daily life and has persisted for longer than two to three weeks.

Learn To Feel Safe Again

By working with a mental health professional who specializes in trauma, you can experience recovery from your PTSD relating to the coronavirus.

For more information, please contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 today.  

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