By Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative
For someone who was already anxious or depressive, the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic could be debilitating without counteractive strategies for calm.
“If anxiety or depression were moods we’ve been learning to cope with for a long time, or are skills that were never learned,” said Winnipeg counsellor Krystal Kaposi, who specializes in dealing with anxiety, depression, burnout, dementia and more. “We are likely going to feel helpless, overwhelmed and potentially hopeless.”
Worse, any uncertainty, particularly on a large scale like the pandemic, could trigger a cascade of emotional fallout.
“Aspects of the pandemic might trigger historical trauma,” said Kaposi, who teaches clients coping skills. “It might be the perfect storm to lead to feeling re-traumatized and not coping.”
The first step to finding your way through anxiety is to remember what is under your control, she said. “You. You can only control your actions and reactions.”
Here’s a few more tips to wrestle anxiety under control, avoid burnout and keep depression offside.
Set limits with yourself
“Ask yourself, ‘Have I done too much today? Do I need to take a break? Am I doing too much? Why am I doing so much? Or why am I doing nothing?” asks Kaposi.
Set limits with others
Know that it’s okay to say no, or to not be available, or feel incapable of helping.
“This one is really hard for caregivers,” said Kaposi. “Typically caregivers are good at putting others first, including putting others’ needs ahead of their own basic needs for rest, sleep, food, safety and health.”
This can lead to grave physical and mental outcomes for the caregiver.
Examine your tolerance for uncertainty
People with a low uncertainty tolerance try to plan their way through every potential outcome.
They make lists, seek frequent reassurance, refuse to delegate, avoid, procrastinate, and seek constant distractions. “This is a huge expenditure of energy in comparison addressing the issue or just learning to tolerate uncertainty,” said Kaposi.
She suggests building uncertainty resilience by experimenting with small activities that cause a mildly fearful reaction, such as buying a dessert without asking for opinions, or delegating a minor task to someone else(with an inner commitment not to criticize the outcome).
Get help if needed
Breakdown thoughts, feelings, issues in order to gain order, perspective, and spend less time being stuck and allowing these ideas or feelings to take over and feel true
“Ask, ‘What is causing me stress or anxiety?” said Kaposi. Once a cause, a root, or a trigger can be named, it can be addressed. “When it’s unknown, it feels like we have no control and it’s just happening to us,” she said.
If this is too hard, then establish another person who can be called on to help provide a reality check. Have him or her ask questions like, how do I know this is true?
If your first thought or reaction is negative, think of a second alternative thought.
Such as, ‘I’m going to die from COVID-19.’
Alternative: ‘I am doing everything I can to take precautions and reduce my risks. Everything will be fine. I will be okay.’
Plan feel good activities
Whatever makes you feel good, hot showers, flavourful coffee, yoga, anything that brings a sense of betterment. “Then lift it up a notch and think of ways to make them even better,” said Kaposi.
Go for a stroll, a jog or meditative walk, in the yard, up the street, anywhere outside.
“Just stepping out the front door can do wonders,” she said. Try to do this at least once a day.
Consider changes or establishing a routine that promotes relaxation. Examine your and diet to ensure nothing is interrupting your natural sleep. Eliminate disturbances and ensure the sleeping environment is set up for deep sleep.
If waking in the night is an issue, consider incorporating relaxing activities just before bedtime such as, having tea, using a white noise emitter, meditating, journaling, reading, whatever feel restful.
“Recognize you’ll catch up on sleep the next day,” said Kaposi. “Worrying about not sleeping only makes it worse.”
Reduce news watching
Check news twice a day at the maximum. Reduce or eliminate social media, limit time on the phone, and communication with others that sometimes can be counterproductive if it’s non-stop throughout the day.
Recognize when you need help
Signs you need help:
If you have thoughts of harming yourself or others; you feel unable to function or not able to think clearly; you are unable to wake up to attend to responsibilities such as children, parents or work; if you are not looking after basic needs like bathing, eating, or taking life-saving medication; if others mention these concerns; if you are not getting along with other or feel overwhelmed or isolated.
“There are many options for help,” said Kaposi. Speak with someone you trust or call a community organization near where you live.
“Remember, it’s temporary, things will change,” Kaposi said. “You will get through this.”