NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It’s been a few weeks since we first brought you tips from Nashville-based mental health therapist Cris Cannon on how to deal with anxiety surrounding COVID-19. (If you haven’t read those tips yet, you should!) We checked back in with him this week for some additional coping techniques now that the coronavirus outbreak has forced many of us into our homes.
1. Call out your feelings of unease for what they are: anxiety
Cannon says several of his clients have told him in the past few weeks that they haven’t felt like themselves, and they find themselves worrying about COVID-19. Cannon says these are all classic signs of anxiety.
“It’s ok to say, ‘I’m frightened, I’m scared, I’m worried,’ and there’s some power in being able to call that out and say that’s what’s going on with me right now,” Cannon said.
2. Maintain a routine schedule
If you’re out of work, Cannon says excessive sleeping is just a form of escaping whats really going on.
“The best thing that can possibly happen is try to keep your sleep and wake schedules the same,” Cannon said. “Make sure you are getting adequate rest, but make sure you’re not sleeping too much.”
3. Be sure to keep a sense of order
Cannon says that sense of order can come from anything in your life, even if that means cleaning your home, or finally getting to that fixer-upper that you’ve been putting off.
“Cleaning out a closet, working on issues in your home, taking things to Goodwill, whatever it is to bring you a sense of meaning and sense of order, in that moment, that decreases anxiety,” Cannon said.
4. Use the time to reconnect with others
More people are using FaceTime to stay in touch with family, friends or acquaintances they haven’t connected with in a while.
“In our busy daily life, the idea of calling some old friend from years ago, it may not occur, but right now in this slowed-down part of our environment, it gives us that opportunity,” Cannon said. “In that moment, we are engaged with what we’re talking about.”
Cannon says that avoids what he calls a “what-if” spiral, when people starting worrying about potential problems they have no control over, and haven’t even come about yet.
“It’s living in the moment where we are, acknowledging it, and doing something about it. That gives us the ability to control it,” Cannon said.
5. Take time to breathe
When you notice your body giving you signs that you are stressed — a feeling of tightness, labored breathing, becoming upset — Cannon says you should practice what he calls “counted breathing”: breathe in for six seconds, hold that breath for six seconds, and breathe out for six seconds.
Cannon says you should repeat that for as many repetitions it takes for you to stop any negative thoughts, and return to the present.
6. Take time to laugh
“Yes I know, we’re living in a difficult time,” Cannon said. “As some have mentioned to me, ‘it’s hard to feel like I can laugh right now because there is so much tragedy.’”
But Cannon says taking time to laugh — with friends, family or a favorite movie — can boost the immune system, decrease stress hormones and increase stress-busting endorphins.
Most importantly, Cannon says, laughter helps us focus on something other than the unknown, which is out of our control.