by Melissa Cohen, LCSW
Master’s Degree from Columbia University School of Social Work and an Advanced Certificate in Social Work from New York University; author of ParentKnowledgy and STRESS-LESS…11 Ways to Relieve Stress and Anxiety and Live the Life You Want.
So, what’s going to happen next, what is everyone going to do, what does this mean for my future, for my family, the economy, what about college, graduation…and when will it end? These are just some questions you might be asking yourself and can’t get out of your mind.
If you find yourself feeling scared, stressed and anxious about what is going on, you are not alone. Fear of the unknown, panic and worry are normal inner alarms. They keep us safe and help us survive. They warn us of danger and cause us to find ways to protect ourselves. In the case of COVID-19, even though we have been following precautions and practicing safe behavior, rapid changes have put us all in a situation that we could never have prepared for. Most of us are experiencing more stress and anxiety than we’ve ever felt before, and because of this, we do not have the tools and strategies to help calm our fears and protect ourselves.
It is important to stop and think about what will help you the most. Here are some suggestions:
1. Refocus on what you can control. Take it one day at a time. Stay focused on your class work and don’t fall behind.
2. Set date markers so that there is something to look forward to and some time to reassess what you’ve been doing and adapt to things to come.
3. Try to stop reading too much social media. We think that knowing helps to calm us, but in this case, people are posting information that serves their agenda and might not help yours. Stay with 1-3 trustworthy sites and keep research to a minimum.
4. Redefine social interactions. Find safe ways to interact with your friends and family. For example, you might video chat, talk or text on the phone, have a virtual chat session, dinner, TV/movie or game night. Be creative!
5. Adapt and develop new routines or keep the ones that work for you. Get up, get showered and get dressed even though you are not going out. If you work, do your job. If you are in school, do your work.
6. Take an additional online class to get ahead or reinforce what you are learning.
7. Designate personal space for each family member. Discussing boundaries and expectations will help avoid silly conflict. Although conflict will happen, make sure that it is something worth arguing over. Don’t hold grudges – everyone is stressed.
Most importantly, acknowledge your feelings and talk about them. If you feel that you need professional help, reach out to someone. Psychotherapists are conducting HIPAA- compliant video sessions, but you need to find someone in your state.