As cases of the recent coronavirus, or COVID-19, are increasing across the United States and the world, so are feelings of anxiety, panic and stress among many people.
It’s normal to have some anxiety in situations like this, but it’s also important not to let that anxiety turn into further distress that could impact you or your family’s emotional, mental and physical health during this time.
We spoke to Rob Gent, Chief Clinical Officer of Embark Behavioral Health, about the ways to manage these symptoms, mitigate stress and prevent further panic.
3 Ways to Manage Anxiety Symptoms Amid the Coronavirus
Gent says that overwhelming anxiety in the U.S. “is currently at an all-time high and has created susceptibility and vulnerability for any stress to turn into excessive anxiety, panic and worry.”
He adds, “As the recent coronavirus has escalated, stress has become inevitably overwhelming for so many.”
The top three ways that families can manage their anxiety during this time, according to Gent, are to:
1. Experience gratitude.
“Find moments to think about those things in your life that you are grateful for (i.e. your career, family, pets, etc.) and intentionally take deep breaths. Research has found that practicing deep inhaling and exhaling has remarkable effects on our mental and physical health,” Gent says.
2. Focus on strengthening your relationships.
Whether with your family or friends, Gent states that “relationships have been shown to be the most effective experience for creating regulation and safety for individuals with anxiety.” He recommends “creating experiences of connection and intimacy through sharing conversation, talking through anxiety and being vulnerable,” which will help to re-establish regulation and help move you out of an anxious or panicked state.
3. Increase your self-awareness and stay in the present.
“Increasing self-awareness is all about being in the present rather than being overcome with anxiety about the future,” Gent says. He adds, “Taking the time to reflect on what we are ultimately afraid of and demystify the uncontrollable/unknowable anxiety, will help to let the rational part of our minds to lessen the impact of the irrational worry about what could be.”
In addition to these tips, Gent advises doing what you can to prevent panic, above all.
“Panic is contagious and it is difficult for us as humans to override that natural response. We often get caught up in the momentum of everyone else’s anxiety, paranoia and worry,” he says.
Gent recommends “reducing, if not temporarily stopping, the ingestion of news and updates” during this time, as well as employing the steps above to “help regulate your emotional and rational brain and nervous system to not spread detrimental panic to others.”
Gent also suggests, for parents in particular, “to be involved and take part in these activities.” He adds that for children and teenagers, “getting lectured to do these things is often ineffective and usually only increases anxiety.” Rather, initiating an activity to be in the present and then using reflection after the activity to increase self-awareness about what that was like, could, even for a brief moment, provide relief from anxiety.
About Rob Gent
Rob Gent, MA, LPC, is the Chief Clinical Officer at Embark Behavioral Health in Tempe, Arizona. His primary focus is leading the organization in clinical development and in the growth of numerous programs, as a co-founder of Calo Programs and the developer of the proprietary CASA treatment model.
As a licensed professional counselor, Gent continues to offer his insight into attachment and developmental trauma, as well as neurological, physiological and psychological issues. He enjoys sharing his knowledge at Embark and at conferences, engagements and trainings across the U.S. In his spare time, Gent likes to spend time outdoors with his wife and two sons.