The Emotional First-Aid Kit: 6 Ways to Manage Anxiety During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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manage anxiety
Artwork is courtesy of Aishwarya Sukesh & Safeera Sarjoo

These past few weeks have been unprecedented, rapidly evolving, and uncharted territory. For many of us, this is the first time we are facing a crisis of this magnitude for the first time. This is also the first time we have had to role-switch and be more concerned about our parents’ and grandparents. Not to mention many of us are far away from family or close friends and don’t know when we will see them again, and most of us are now working from home, which completely pivots daily lifestyles, businesses and work-life culture. IThese things are all true for me.

As a therapist, I recognize how important it is to be aware of our mental health during a time like this, so I’m sharing a few strategies to help you with how you’re feeling. 

It’s helpful to have an emotional first-aid kit at hand! This list has some strategies that you try to help manage your anxiety. 

1. Set healthy boundaries:

  • Take a break from social media and the news (limit to 30-60 mins a day); try to avoid reading news or articles first thing in the morning or right before going to sleep.
  • Pay attention to where you put your energy: limit interactions with people who are catastrophizing, increasing your fears or dismissing your experience by minimizing it. If you aren’t able to limit that (maybe they are your family or roommates!), it’s okay to say “I’m taking a break from Corona coverage right now, is it okay if we talk about something else?”
  • There’s a difference in being informed and being over-saturated with content. 

2. Take Care of Your Health

  • Engage in some physical activity — try some at-home workouts, there are tons on YouTube — Downward Dog for yoga, Rumble for boxing, BollyHeels for Bollywood/fusion dance classes, Blogiltes for full-body workouts.
  • Keep your immune system strong by eating well. Keep nutritious snacks and fruits at home, make healthy meals at home whenever you can. Make sure you eat throughout the day and are drinking enough water. (This water bottle will keep you on track on drinking regularly.)
  • Even though you aren’t going out as often, try to keep a schedule and structure to your day. Try to wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day.

3. Strengthen Self-Care

  • The weather is becoming nicer — open the blinds, open your windows, sit by sunlight if you can.
  • Practice acceptance
    • Focus your energy on the things you can change and have control over. List them down, engage with them.
    • Increase your ability to tolerate uncertainty and the present moment, even when it’s painful or uncomfortable.
    • Don’t judge yourself for what you’re feeling, acknowledge those feelings.
    • A great book on acceptance is Radical Acceptance if you can get your hands on it right now — it’s a good time to read it!

4. Social Distancing is NOT Social Isolation

5. Engage in Creative Activities

  • Pick up a new hobby, like cooking or learning a new language. You can use DuoLingo to learn a new language, Alison Roman’s recipes make The New York Times cooking newsletter each week, check them out here. Or if you want desi food inspo, check out our food bloggers, Nisha Pawar, Megha Patel, Zheel Patel or Ann Itoop’s recipes here
  • Get some houseplants and tend to them. Lifestyle blogger Arshia Moorjani just shared her tips via Instagram. 
  • Think of something you used to love doing as a child — colouring, painting, knitting, puzzles — bring those activities back in your life! Our friends at Indigrow Kids is a good place to start! 
  • Create daily goals: try to tackle any household errand each day (organizing closet, sorting clothes you want to donate, organizing makeup drawer, rearranging furniture).

6. Seek Professional Help Unapologetically

  • There are many online therapy resources that you can access right now at sliding scale fees — including Samata Health, TalkSpace, BetterHelp, Octave Therapy. If you have health insurance, call them and find out your behavioural/mental health benefits and then get a list of providers who are in their network.
  • Ask your doctor if they can refer you if you are struggling.

Remember: feeling anxious or overwhelmed is a totally normal and natural response. This is a challenging time, remember to be as kind to yourself as you are to others. 

Disclaimer: Information in this article is not intended to be medical or mental health treatment. If you feel unwell or If you are in a crisis or any other person may be in danger, please go to your closest emergency room or call 911. 

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Israa Nasir

Israa Nasir is a Pakistani-Canadian mental health professional, currently living and working in New York City. She is passionate about South Asian diasporic issues, especially mental health, women, and the role of (im)migration on identity. Through her writings she hopes to explore these issues and encourage further introspection into ‘being brown’ in North America today. Israa graduated from University of Toronto, majoring in Psychology and Environmental Studies. She went on to receive an M.A. in counselling at The Derner Institute in New York.

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