Question: Although things are opening back up, I continue to have anxiety related to COVID-19. How do I manage it?
Answer: The COVID-19 pandemic has been such an odd and stressful time for so many — wearing masks, socially distancing, quarantining, losing loved ones. There is great grief that comes along with living during this unprecedented time.
School terms were cut short and virtual learning became the norm. Proms and graduations were canceled. People were no longer going to the office, and instead working from home. Toilet paper, Lysol, and Clorox wipes became hot commodities. These dramatic shifts happened in a matter of weeks, sometimes days.
No one can fully prepare for such change. It was and still is hard. Even though things are opening back up, the pandemic has not been declared over by the World Health Organization — the organization that declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020. So it makes sense that, a little over a year later, you continue to feel anxious about it.
I am curious about your anxiety. Do you avoid leaving your house for fear of contracting the virus? Are you easily irritated and snappish when others are not socially distanced near you? Do you monitor any and every physical health sensation for signs of COVID-19 — cough, headache, runny or stuffy nose, etc.?
Anxiety can present in different forms. The first step is being aware of what you are feeling and the possible cause(s). If leaving the house is a cause for concern, most stores and restaurants now allow ordering online or via phone. Some include contactless delivery with purchases, too. Is that a reasonable option? If not, making sure you have hand sanitizer, gloves and masks packed in your purse or car before leaving is one way to alleviate stress.
If the lack of social distancing is a concern, arrive at a store when it first opens and avoid the crowd. Sit on the patio at a restaurant. Politely ask someone for space if he or she is crowding you. If you are obsessively monitoring yourself for symptoms, it is a good idea to have the necessary cold and allergy medication and Center for Disease Control guidelines on hand. Taking a Tylenol and/or Benadryl as directed, and knowing protocol for contacting a doctor, may help you feel more in control. Also, remember that it is springtime and pollen is lurking!
Do not forget that praying and seeking the Lord’s face is always a great resource. As Psalm 94:19 says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” I am also reminded of Psalm 119:50, “My comfort in my suffering is this: your promise preserves my life.”
Brenna Weaver is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Ridgeland working with clients 18 years and older. She has experience as a secondary education teacher and children’s therapist. When not working, she enjoys reading, eating good food, and traveling.