We’ve been hearing about COVID-19 for a year and a half now, and we’ve seen more than enough disaster shots from the news. Shots of frantic hospital workers, images of bed-ridden patients, graphs showing extreme job loss—the list goes on. Couple that with a year spent in isolation, and it’s no wonder your mind races to the worst-case scenario when you hear that you’ve tested positive.
We’re here to support you. Let’s talk about how to cope with anxiety brought on by a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Let It Out
You’re allowed to be afraid. Anytime we bury our feelings down deep, there’s a consequence. The ones you need to be most worried about are putting more stress on your immune system while you’re trying to heal. Being under a constant state of stress can do this.
So feel your feels—call a friend, a therapist, or grab a journal. Get out all the nerves you have, then slowly transition into moving on. You don’t want to outright reject emotional disturbance, but you also don’t want to skate right over it.
Focus on What’s True Now
Feeling regret for past decisions or anxiety for future disasters is normal, but it’s not helpful. If your spiraling thoughts can’t seem to stop, try writing down what’s true now. Now, you’re sick. You need water, rest, and support from people you love while you heal. Let that be your main focus.
Try What’s Worked Before
COVID-19 looks different for everybody. You could experience severe symptoms, no symptoms, or a mix of symptoms. However, having the same, go-to comfort technique is helpful to de-stress and distract in times like these.
Watch your favorite movies, read a book, take a soothing soak in the tub, and whatever else calms you on stressful days.
Limit Social Media Scrolling
With the current state of the world, it might not be the best idea to distract with social media. The goal here is to calmly heal, not remind ourselves what’s at stake. As long as you’re isolating yourself to heal, it’s best to leave the phone on the nightstand.
Try This Anti-Spiralling Activity
Grab a writing utensil and a piece of paper.
First, try to remember what happened that sparked your spiral.
Let’s say a friend asked about your activities leading up to your diagnosis, clearly implying that you would do something unsafe. What assumptions are you making about yourself after hearing this? Many people feel guilt after their diagnosis, like they could’ve done more to prevent it. As a result, you might conclude that you’re a harmful person.
Write down this conclusion.
Next, write down the “supporting evidence” that your mind is using to prove it.
Let’s say you write down, “My job requires me to work in person,” “I forgot my mask when I picked up food last week,” and “My friends told me so.”
Now, write down an alternative thought about yourself that’s more accurate based on the evidence at hand.
Using these examples, no one would reasonably conclude that you’re the kind of person who seeks to harm others. Instead, they might conclude that you’re human. You’re stuck working an in-person job that puts you more at risk. You’re (sometimes) forgetful. These facts are all less heavy to carry than believing that we’re hurtful people.
Is it important to acknowledge and accept the times we could have done better? Absolutely. But for the sake of healing (both physically and mentally) give yourself some credit. You did the best you could given the circumstances.
Finally, write down evidence that suggests the opposite conclusion.
What do you do that makes you a caring person? Do you socially distance in public? Do you hold your children when they cry? It’s important to remember that we’re well-rounded people with moments of strength and weakness. None of us are perfect, but we have to meet ourselves where we are for the sake of acceptance.
If you struggle getting carried away with anxious thoughts, consider reaching out to one of our counselors for more coping skills like this.