Coping with anxiety during the pandemic

WINNIPEG — More than half a million people are infected with COVID-19 worldwide, and as cases surge, so do feelings of anxiety for many Manitobans.

“This is uncharted territory. We are in a situation with a huge number of unknowns and as human beings we don’t like unknowns,” said executive director of Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba (ADAM) Mary Williams. 

But there are resources to help Manitobans who may feel overwhelmed. ADAM has launched a support line at 204-925-0040. Staff and volunteers are answering phones from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends. Leave your name and number and someone will get back to you as quickly as possible, said Williams. 

She said the support line is especially important for people who are isolated. “One of the big challenges about this whole situation is that there are a lot of people who are alone. When there is this kind of threat in the environment and you’re alone, it increases the sense of vulnerability, and vulnerability and lack of control increase anxiety.”

ADVICE FOR MANAGING ANXIETY

People who experience anxiety can also have physical symptoms, including rapid breathing and loss of appetite. “There is a part of our brain that is activated when we feel threatened, and that part of the brain called the amygdala controls the fight, flight and freeze reactions that we have.” 

There are lifestyle changes that can reduce stress and anxiety levels, according to Williams. She suggests limiting the amount of information you consume and making sure it’s from a reliable source. 

“The more information a person is taking in, the more likely it is their anxiety is going to increase. Maybe set a time to watch the news or check a reputable website rather than constant exposure to all of the developments.”

Exercise is also key. “Action makes quite a difference. Anxiety and adrenaline build up… so some form of exercise, even walking around your house or in your yard is really helpful.”

Williams also recommends deep breathing and meditation.

With more people staying home to stop the spread, Williams said it’s sometimes important to set boundaries. “What space is my space and what space is your space? What do I need in order to manage my anxiety.” 

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