Older adults everywhere are experiencing the mental whiplash of heading back into a new COVID outbreak. Just when things were returning to normal, the Delta variant arrived, and now virus transmission is higher than it’s ever been.
“The pandemic has led to a considerable amount of collective trauma, and the emotional ‘whiplash’ of returning to a stage of restrictions can trigger many of the negative feelings we experienced at the height of the pandemic,” Mirela Loftus, MD told Verywell Health.
Our current state of circumstances is leaving many in a state of anxiety and stress. It would be strange not to feel stress during this time! The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that one in four older adults was experiencing anxiety or depression during the pandemic.
There are ways to help you feel better and mitigate the stress that you may be feeling. Start by being in the moment, taking a breath, and saying, “At this moment, all is well.”
Tips for Managing COVID Anxiety
- Deep breathing. Breathing deeply in throug the nose and out through your mouth can help to calm you down instantly. Try four square breathing, where you trace a square with your finger and count to four as you inhale and exhale. Exhale to a count of four, hold your lungs empty for a four count, inhale for a count of four, and then hold the air in for four counts. Repeat the pattern.
- Focus on the present. Focus on what is good and pleasant in your life right now, from a plant blooming to a beloved grandchild to a faithful pet.
- Take action rather than saying “what if”. Rather than guessing what will happen, do what you can right now, such as call a friend, take a walk, or help someone in need.
- Thank your anxiety for trying to help you, but tell it you don’t need it right now. Anxiety developed in humans in order to help us with dangerous situations. But if your anxiety is not serving you, simply acknowledge it, name it, and let it pass.
- Get moving. Exercise helps you stay fit and also releases hormones that make you happy.
- Accept the situation. COVID-19 might not be going away for quite some time. Accepting that fact and letting go of any expected outcomes can help you to move forward in a way that’s safe and works for you.
- Maintain routines. Keep up with healthy routines such as showering, waking at the same time, eating well, and sleeping enough at night.
- Spend time outdoors. Being in nature lets us get away from our TVs and phones, and has also been shown to reduce stress and promote wellbeing.
- Communicate. Talk with a friend, write a letter, or write in a journal to express your thoughts and emotions. Leaving them bottled up will only make you feel worse.
Remember that it’s normal to be feeling anxious during these times, and each day you should take some time to take care of yourself. The CDC offers resources for people of all ages dealing with anxiety in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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