For anyone already suffering from an anxiety disorder, the current trying times are more than trying my patience—it seems to be trying to claim my very sanity. To say it’s been a rough few weeks has been an understatement. Although I’m a relatively shy and introverted person in general, one of my coping mechanisms to address that issue within me has always been to spend some quiet time near other people—reading a book in a cafe for a few hours, going to the park to write in my journal while watching families picnic and kids play, and enjoying a walk along a storied promenade for a “hello” and a quick smile—have been my go-to options for years as methods of privately managing my anxiety, and have always staved off any feelings of complete isolation to which my natural shyness could have left me shackled.
Use Proper Coping Mechanisms
Now, in an instant, all of those coping mechanisms have been stripped from me, and I’m sure they have been barred to countless others who feel quite the same as I do. For the first few days, I had been thrown off of the rhythm of work, and school, then work, then home. Now, there was only home. I hoped that I would immediately find ways of replicating the feeling of being with my co-workers and fellow students through what seemed like an endless barrage of online meet-ups and chats, but unfortunately, I discovered quite the opposite: I found that, although I was happy to see familiar faces that I cared for on my screens, it created in me a sense of longing—an unfamiliar kind of covetousness—deep within me. I became jealous of the spaces that my friends occupied. The people who had spent countless hours of time with me in order that I might feel comfortable enough to open up to them were now imprisoned in shells of their own; only a few miles apart, but for all intents and purposes, they might as well be halfway across the world.
Stress, Stress, Stress
According to the CDC, “Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, and how you respond to the outbreak can depend on your background, the things that make you different from other people, and the community you live in.” Although I’ve been struggling to relax and rejoice during this outbreak, I actually have been able to find some solace in my community. No, I am lucky enough not to have to stress about out-of-control neighbors racing to the local store to strip our community of its most precious resource: toilet paper, or “white gold,” as I’m fond of calling it now, is still quite prevalent in “them thar hills” that I’m proud to call home. Living near a larger city surrounded by smaller, relatively quiet mountain towns has never proven more beneficial to my mental and emotional health than right now.
I know that that isn’t everyone’s situation, however: some of my friends have had to move back into their old neighborhoods in larger cities (one of them is holed up in an apartment in Los Angeles), and they are lacking any of the typical outlets that they’d use to keep themselves sane in those situations. In brighter times, she is an avid “weekend warrior” traveler—the kind who drives a few hours here and there to hit the slopes on opening day, or the beach when the waves are crashing their hardest—she’s now locked up in a room with nothing but a computer for company, and I’ve watched it take its significant toll.
Thankfully, she’s also the kind of person who is self-aware, and she’s noticed the signs in herself that reveal that despite her normally sunny disposition and indefatigable nature, that she’s suffering from some stress. Recognizing those signs, though, are the first step to addressing the problem. Since she’s used to heading out for hikes and long trail runs in the early mornings, she’s setting aside time every day to listen to music and go for a ‘hike” in her room.
Get Away From the Media
Another tip? Turn off the TV sometimes. Limiting how much television news you consume is helpful. Ensure you’re informed but don’t let the talking heads work you up into a frenzy. Television news is in the “Crisis Business.” They want your eyes glued to the screen, even if it’s the same ten minutes of info rehashed a thousand different ways sold as “Breaking News!”
Instead, make a cafe at home. Open up your heart to the sounds outside your window instead. Yes, they might be sirens, but they might be the sounds of neighbors singing, too, and eventually of a world coming alive again.