Coping With Stress & Anxiety Amidst COVID-19
It's a surreal experience to live in the world we live in today. COVID-19 has created a new 'normal' for the foreseeable future. The lines at the grocery stores remind me of old Soviet block states where people had to line up daily in order to get bread as food was in short supply. In America and in our day and time, the line isn't for bread, but toilet paper of all things! It is a strange experience and one that many American's have not had to experience before.
COVID-19 has created a world where significant, life altering elements are outside of our control. It leaves us with a high level of uncertainty: when will the kids go back to school? How long with the stay at home order last? Will the stay at home order be extended or even become more restrictive? What will we do if we contract the virus? Do we have enough supplies? Will I have a job? In a world of uncertainty there are things we can do to cope with and manage the stress and anxiety that accompanies these situations.
Identify Those Things Outside of Our Control
The serenity prayer comes to mind and seems apropos in this situation: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." We have no control over the stay at home order, we have no control on whether it will be extended or not, we have no control over whether the government will increase restrictions/or loosen restrictions, we have no control over whether the shelves at the store are stocked with toilette paper, etc.
Choosing to focus our mental energy worrying about these things that are outside of our control only serves to increase our stress and anxiety as well as rob us of the emotional energy needed to be present for those in our lives today. Worrying doesn't change a thing besides, think back on things that you have worried about in the past. Did those things you worry about come to pass as you thought they would? Ninety-nine percent of the time they don't but yet we stress ourselves out unnecessarily regardless.
Let go of those things that your stress and worry will not change and focus on those things that you can change, have influence over, and/or are in your control.
Identify Those Things That We Do Have Control Over
There are elements in this situation that we have absolute control over. We can choose to be armed with the most up to date information from the CDC and implement it to the best of our ability. We can learn about how the virus spreads and the best way to prevent getting or transmitting the virus. We can learn about the steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones then implement those steps. There are various chemicals and solutions we can use to disinfect our homes. Being armed with accurate information on how to remain safe and healthy and then implement those steps will help ease our stress and anxiety
Arm yourself with knowledge of how to remain safe and healthy and utilize that knowledge in your daily life.
Eliminate Sources of Stress and Anxiety
Watching or reading the news is an important way to keep informed of the most recent updates. However, if you find yourself scouring the internet and glued to the TV much of the day looking for COVID related stories, you may find your stress and anxiety increasing. We need to remain informed, I'm not recommending we switch off all forms of media and we stick our collective heads in the sand. Balance and moderation are key here and once we obtain the information needed, let's turn our attention and focus to the things in our current life that are under our control or influence.
I do understand that there are those that find solace in scouring the news about COVID-19. I would suggest being mindful of your body and mind's reaction to the news that you are digesting. If you are one that fits this category, you may try turning off the TV, closing the lap top, putting the phone away after you have received the news for the day and focus your time and energy on those around you in that moment. See if this makes a difference in your mood and emotions and if you notice your relationships being strengthened.
Balance and moderation: ditch the excess.
Structure and Routine for Children and Teens
There is safety in predictability, structure, and routine. Though our kids and teens will deny it, they crave predictability in routine and structure. You will find that their mood and attitude changes (not for the good) when the routine of their daily life is interrupted for long periods of time. With school providing the main structure in our kids and teens lives, we find ourselves responsible to fill the void that school closures have opened.
Be proactive and plan activities with and for your kids and teens. Create a routine filled with chores (parents, we love this one), online school or if that's not an option assign books to read or other school related activities, schedule in some gym/PE time and go out back and do some exercises together, maintain your kids bed time hours, wake up at the same time each day, and ensure that you and your kids get enough sleep. Sleep is essential in reducing stress and anxiety and combine that with exercise, you have one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety.
Create that felt sense of safety for your kids and teens through predictability in structure and routine.
Focusing on Relationships
There is a lot of sickness and loss occurring in the world today. My heart aches for those who have been impacted and I pray daily for them, our community, and for my family. As a community, nation, and world, we will rally around those who have been impacted and we will get through this. While we are all huddled together against the force of this silent storm, I have found the uniqueness of this situation in terms of strengthening relationships.
Normally, I find myself traveling for work which takes me away from the home. Overseeing two residential treatment centers (RTCs) and starting up a third, my time spent away from home has been increasing as of late. I also travel to present and talk to groups, organizations, and at conferences regularly. On top of this, I have started Katy Teen & Family Counseling and at the same time, decided to get certified in neurofeedback, which requires daily study and implementation. I enjoy my work and I work hard to ensure I provide top quality service to the people I am fortunate enough to work with.
For the last 4-6 weeks, I have been working from home more regularly. Travel has been suspended while overseeing the RTCs and with school being closed, I find myself at home with my two teen boys and my partner daily. Even though at home during the day, I am working, I have many 'micro-interactions' with my boys and partner which has been refreshing given how often I had previously been away. Not having places to be after work, we are spending more and more time playing games, watching movies, playing with the dogs, and just hanging out. I have been able to devote more time to my studies as well as having increased availability for those I see at my private practice.
Meditation, Deep Breathing, & Exercise
Along with the above to help reduce stress and anxiety you can also try meditation and there are many apps to help with this. Practicing deep breathing exercises as well as exercise and/or weight lifting to get the endorphins pumping has been a go to for anxiety (as well as for depression) and research shows that it can be as effective as medication.
Let go, take action, get rid of the excess, provide the felt sense of safety for your kids and teens, and in this unique situation, take advantage of the time you have with family and loved ones. Theses steps will help to reduce the stress and anxiety that you and your family may experience during this time as well as help you strengthen family relationships.
If you have found that the effects of COVID-19 have impacted your teen's mood and you are noticing symptoms that look like teen depression, teen anxiety, teen trauma, teen PTSD or others, reach out to Katy Teen & Family Counseling and let one of our specialists in teen counseling and family therapy help your teen and family.
To start the journey of healing from the impacts of COVID-19, you can follow these three simple steps:
Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling
Speak with one of our caring therapists and specialists in teens and families
Take this first step in starting your healing journey and you will be glad you did
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we offer a variety of counseling and therapeutic approaches to help your teen and family heal:
Neurofeedback Therapy for Teen ADHD
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on our emotions. Take the first step in helping your teen get the support and resources they need in their healing journey. If you need family therapy, don't wait any longer. The hardest step in this process is usually the first step of reaching out. We'll help you in that first step and walk side by side the rest of the journey. You have an expert and specialist in teen counseling and family therapy ready to guide your teen and family up this path of self discovery and healing. Reach out today.
How to Begin Teen Therapy or Family Counseling
To begin teen therapy or family counseling, simply contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling through our website or by calling 346-202-4662. Our Owner and Lead Clinician answers each phone call to help match you with the right therapist for you teen and family.
About the Author
Jason Drake is a Licensed Clinical Worker. He is a Specialist in Teen Therapy & Family Counseling. He has provided therapy to teens and families since 2003. Through his expertise, he helps teens who struggle with depression, anxiety, trauma, ADHD/ADD, and PTSD. He works with talented teen athletes who have experience mental blocks. Gifted students have unique challenges that Jason understands well. Jason uses CBT, EMDR, Neurofeedback, FFT, and Motivational Interviewing. We only work with teens and families which allows us to focus on what teens and families of today need. Resolving the struggles of today can assure a more successful tomorrow. Proudly serving Katy, Tx and Houston.