It seems a fair assumption that to a greater or lesser degree all of us are experiencing anxiety about the virus and its impact on our lives. Will I get sick? How sick? If the economy continues to react negatively, how will I survive that? Will I get paid? What do I do about bills? We go to the supermarket and find the shelves where toilet paper and cleaning supplies and hand sanitizers empty. How do I take care of myself? All of these and other questions bedevil us. It’s impossible, unless one is completely cut off from the world, to escape the looming presence of COVID-19, the virus which for now seems to dominate our lives. Sports events cancelled. Colleges and universities closed. Quarantine. All the news about this virus and its impacts seems negative and anxiety provoking. And now it creeps into therapy.
Here’s what I am telling my patients.
First, if you are ill or have been exposed, please do not come in. We can meet online or by telephone.
Second, take the precautions recommended by the CDC — wash your hands thoroughly and often. Don’t touch your face – I don’t know about you, but that is a tough one for me because my “listening thoughtfully” look is with my chin resting on my hand, but I am learning. Avoid gatherings where there will be a lot of people. Stay hydrated. Check the CDC for more recommendations and for what to do if you develop symptoms. Make sure that any source you go to for information is reliable. All of these are commonsense things you can do.
But what about your anxiety? This is where a different kind of self-care comes into play. If you are home, do things that you find soothing and relaxing. Knit. Draw. Read. Watch Netflix. Call a friend. Pet your dog or cat. Meditate. Do slow deep breathing. Listen to music. Write.
Third, keep your therapy appointment, whether in person, by telephone or online. Talking helps. Being listened to helps.
If your anxiety is overwhelming and you do not have a therapist, this might be a time to consider finding one.
The likelihood is that even if you do get sick, you will recover, even if you fall into a higher risk category. And even here in Maine, Spring is coming. The days are longer, the sun higher in the sky. Bulbs beginning to come up. Pay attention to these things even as you take precautions.