Live under the pandemic of COVID19 is manageable in 2-week chunks. But, the reality may be much longer than a series of 2-week chunks, with an eventual return to normal. Things may be challenging for quite a while.
Breathe before reading this paragraph. …
What is probably going to be the case? According to Dr Marc Lipsitch (1), epidemiologist and leading commentator from the school of Public Health at Harvard University. We are just at the beginning of learning to live with COVID-19. The nature of infectious diseases is to replicate and spread as much as possible. The interim strategy of social distancing has been effective to slow down transmission, but does not work permanently. What we need is the security provided by a immunization, proven treatment regimes and a dearth of recovered cases. We will be living with COVID19 until there is a vaccine -one that is available to everyone. Estimates for a vaccine range from 1 year to 18 months away. In the meantime, we will manage with the range of public health activities that we have been using thus far (hand washing, social distancing, mouth covering) Things are not going ‘back to normal’ for a while (1,2.3)
The new ‘normal’.
Over the next year to eighteen months will possibly feature repeated periods of work-from-home scenarios, new models of education, suspension of gathering of large groups, and interruptions in activities – a new normal.
This interrupted life is unsettling. It is created by the progression and regression of a pandemic, that despite our best unattempts, is not completely predictable. Anxiety is a natural reaction to this uncertainty.
Anxiety can be experienced in an acute or chronic form. We experience acute anxiety in a strong concentrated form, possibly escalating into a panic episode. These acute instances are intense, usually one-off episodes attached to a trauma. Anxiety around exams and in response to an accident may be examples of acute anxiety.
Chronic anxiety is more constant. Perpetual. It presents as unregulated feelings of nervousness – often located in the stomach, head and neck. Frequent worries persist. Catastrophic thinking – expecting the worst to happen – becomes more regular. Sleep disturbances, stomach upset, migraines and aches and pains in the body are expressions of this anxiety.
What can you do? Anxiety considerations during the new normal. I will cover actions in a series of episodes.
Episode 1: Anxiety dialogues
Episode 2: Create calm
Episode 3: Body basics
Episode 4: Untangled
Episode 5: New beginnings
Episode 1: Anxiety dialogues
Monitor your feelings of anxiety when you watch the news or spend time on social media. For some people those activities can increase their sense of anxiety, for others it may decrease their anxiety. If you are reacting with increased anxiety, consider to decrease your exposure to news and social media streams.
Given the severe outcomes from COVID-19 you may worry about other tragedies that might befall you, Because of our fight/flight/freeze stress response that we respond to threats, remains over stimulated. We can’t calm down without deliberate activity aimed to do so. Our already heightened anxiety starts to look for additional threats. In the case of our experience of COVID-19 this is not an imagined threat to the human species. We can sometimes overgeneralise the threat of these threats to us specifically.
You may have felt that you are powerless over your anxiety. This anxiety dialogue exercise may well help you learn to manage your anxiety during this time.
Your anxiety child: Talk back to your anxiety, as if it is a small child that lives inside you. Help this young child understand the risk. Hold their hand whilst you explain the actions that you are going to undertake to help mitigate your risk of infection. Don’t tell dismiss their worries, by saying that worry is silly. Do not try to simply silence your anxiety. Listen, and talk back. Acknowledge the fear, but explain that you do not need to let worries disable you. Comfort your internal anxious child that you will take care. Thank your anxiety for reminding you that there are threats in the world, and that there is danger.
Dialogues with your anxiety may run as waves lapping at the shore of a beach. Let the anxiety roll in and regress, as if your anxious child, and your adult self are in a dance – make it a waltz.
As always we are open to feedback and questions about the advice that we provide. If you would like more information on want to provide feedback please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
#COVID19 #anxiety #newnormal #anxietymanagement #reddoor #chronicanxiety
- Kissler, SM; Tedijanto, C; Goldstein, E; Grad, YH; and Lipsitch, M. April 2020. Projecting the transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 through the postpandemic period. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2020/04/14/science.abb5793
- Gates, B. Feb 2020. Responding to Covid-19 — A Once-in-a-Century Pandemic? Bill Gates. The New England Journal of Medicine https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmp2003762
- Ferguson, NM; Laydon,D; Nedjati-Gilan, G et al. March 2020. Report 9: Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand. Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team https://spiral.imperial.ac.uk/bitstream/10044/1/77482/14/2020-03-16-COVID19-Report-9.pdf