The COVID-19 pandemic is overwhelming and has left many feeling anxious. As someone diagnosed with anxiety, this pandemic can quickly feel like too much to handle. When I feel anxious, I have learned four techniques to help bring relief:

1. Acknowledge that I am anxious. 

One of the toughest phrases for me to say out loud is “I am anxious.” My tendency is to say “I have anxiety but am doing x, y or z to manage and am happily participating in my professional and social life.” While the second sentence is true, I am dodging my true emotion: anxious.

In the midst of this pandemic, I must simply acknowledge I am anxious about COVID-19. Accepting this truth allows me to move forward. 

2. Go back to the basics. 

Anxiety management is critical at this time. Each person I know who is diagnosed with anxiety has a specific list of strategies to revisit when they are feeling overwhelmed. I keep a list on my phone of activities I know that help relieve my anxiety. Sometimes simply viewing the list allows me to calm down because I know there is a way out of this feeling.

3. Walk away from triggers. 

It is in my nature to connect. I want to stay informed on the latest news and interact with my friends on social media...but both feed my anxiety. Especially during a global pandemic, both quickly become too much, so I have to consciously choose to walk away. I check both in the morning and then drastically limit my interactions for the remainder of the day. Limiting exposure to my triggers has allowed me to continue on with my daily routine. 

4. Create a kinder narrative. 

At my first session, my therapist gave me advice I continue to live by each day. I finished expressing an internal dialogue and he responded with “I know you can create a kinder narrative.” And he was right. When anxious thoughts arise, I remember I control my narrative and have an opportunity to create a kinder version.

For example, my father is a pilot and yesterday my anxiety reminded me how many potentially infected people he had come in contact with over the past month. I felt the unpleasant effects of an anxiety attack creeping in but remembered my therapist’s advice and re-visited the narrative. Yes, he flew in March but over a week ago he acknowledged he was at a higher risk being because he is over 60 years old and gave away his flights. Since then, he has practiced social distancing and has not shown symptoms of infection. I checked the scoreboard and it read Susan: 1, anxiety: 0. 

To those battling anxiety amid this global pandemic, I so deeply feel you. Please know that you are not alone. Take care of yourself.

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