Control What You Can
Remember: You are not personally responsible for what happens, and you can't control what happens. But there are important things you can do to keep yourself and other people safe.
The best thing we can al do right now is to stay at home as much as we can, and to stay 6 feet apart from other people any time we have to leave the house. How come? It's because a person can feel completely healthy and still spread the virus to other people without knowing it. We sometimes call that being an "asymptomatic carrier."
Staying home (social or physical distancing) all the time isn't as easy as it sounds -- a lot of people find it stressful, boring, or lonely. Something that might help is to remember the reason you are doing it. You aren't only staying home to protect yourself: you're staying home to protect your friends, your neighbors, and the doctors and nurses on the "front line" who are fighting to save lives.
Once you have done everything you can do, it's worth taking a minute to notice that. Feelings of anger, boredom, loneliness, and stress are the price we are all paying to help protect our loved ones and our community. We are in this together, and we will get through it together, even if we have to be physically apart while we do it.
You'll sometimes hear people talk about "acceptance" as a way to deal with situations that are out of our control. That idea can sound impossible or even offensive at first. How are you supposed to "accept" a completely unacceptable situation?
Here's the thing: acceptance doesn't mean being okay with everything that's happening. It means understanding that, yes, this is really, really hard. This is a scary situation, and a lot of things are out of our control.
That can come with some hard feelings. Fear, anger, grief, and, if we choose, many small moments of connection and humanity – these will all be normal experiences in the weeks ahead. Part of acceptance is being gentle with yourself and others when hard feelings arise.
Be a helper
Pittsburgh's own Mr. Rogers has a few famous quotes, but the most famous might be this one:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'"
When we're very anxious, it can be very tempting to focus all our attention on that anxiety. Unfortunately, that can put us into a "worry spiral" that gets worse and worse.
If you find yourself spiraling, try shifting your attention outward. I'll share a lot of ideas for how to do this in the coming weeks. The first one is this: Be a helper.
Are there small things you can do to brighten someone's day? Don't put yourself at risk, but if you are in a low-risk group (for example, a younger adult in good health), maybe you can offer to run errands for elderly or at-risk neighbors who need to stay home.
If you have school-aged kids at home, why not include them? See how many ways they can come up with for being a helper while staying safe. Writing cards, creating funny videos to send to older family members, and texting or FaceTiming friends, family, and neighbors can all be great ways for kids to be helpers, too.
More ideas to follow! Be well.
Anxiety in the Age of Coronavirus
Welcome! This is Dr. Lauren Hallion, the director of the CNMA Lab. I am a scientist and college professor who also has around a decade of clinical experience in helping people cope with anxiety. I'm writing this blog in a personal capacity to help share knowledge, skills, and strategies for dealing with anxiety and protecting mental health during coronavirus (COVID-19). I will be rolling out a series of posts, and maybe some videos, in the coming days and weeks. If there are certain topics you would like to see covered, please drop a comment and let me know. Be well.
These views are Dr. Hallion's alone. These posts are for informational purposes only and are not medical advice. Dr. Hallion is not able to respond to individuals, but will try to address common questions in later blog posts.