Anxiety & Coronavirus

We are living in weird and scary times, my friends. And if you’re feeling confused and anxious and like your head is in a cloud and you just want to run away and hide under a rock somewhere, you’re not alone.

In fact, you’re far from being alone. Experiencing a pandemic of this magnitude is unprecedented (for our generation, at least). Schools closing indefinitely is unprecedented. Quarantines and food running out and the stock markets crashing at the same time is unprecedented. The entire world is living in what feels like a scary movie.

It’s easy to panic. It’s probably easier to panic than to not. As someone who suffers from anxiety, trust me, I’m with you. But panicking isn’t going to help anyone. If anything, it just ignites our fight or flight response systems which weakens our immune systems, increasing our own chances of getting sick.

Two weeks ago, Anel was stocking up on toilet paper and canned goods while I was teasing him for overreacting. Until this week, when it landed in our own backyard, I was able to keep my anxiety at bay. But now that it’s here? It’s been really hard.

They closed the schools in our town and there have been lines to get into grocery stores and to check out. Amalia’s daycare will be closing soon and she’ll be home indefinitely. Anel will most likely be closing his studio which will cut out a huge portion of our family’s income. We haven’t personally been infected yet, but people in our community have.

When I heard the news about our schools, I had my first flash of panic. It was a very physical, visceral reaction, the way anxiety often manifests itself for me. Tears sprung to my eyes and my entire body tensed up including an intense knot in my chest. But I refused to let that panic take over. I have to stay strong and healthy for my family and in order to do that, I have to be as calm as possible.

So I’m trying to prioritize my mental health by doing a few things that have helped quell my anxiety at least a little bit. There is no way it’s going away completely during a time like this, but the more we can all do to stay calm and healthy the better. It’s only been two days but I wanted to share a few of the ways I’ve been dealing with that anxiety.

Plan ahead: Preparation brings me comfort. Having control over something brings me comfort. Anel and I stocked up on snacks, dried goods (like pasta and brown rice), canned goods (like beans and crushed tomatoes) and frozen fruits and veggies. As someone who had to survive a war and lived on food rations for years because of it, he has been overly cautious which I’m now grateful for. We also bought toilet paper, diapers, wipes, and medicine to have on hand. The CDC has a great page on their site about planning ahead that I found quite helpful

Take things day by day: There is no point in guessing what is going to happen tomorrow or next week. None of us know. The only thing that we’re all pretty sure of is that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. So prep as much as you can and then take everything else day by day. When I look at it from that perspective, I feel a little better.

Meditating: It’s no secret around here that I finally understand and appreciate the benefits of meditation. Tonight after we put Amalia down for bed, Anel asked if we could do a Headspace meditation together to get grounded and just chill the f out. Those ten minutes got us out of our heads and back to reality, even if only for a bit. If you don’t have time for that, come back to the breath. Take 30 seconds to close your eyes with one hand over your heart and another over your belly and breathe in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth. This small moment of mindfulness can make big waves.

Not drinking: I know I know… but hear me out! I recently set a rule for myself about alcohol: only have a glass of wine or a cocktail when I’m celebrating or in a good mood. For example, if I’m out with friends or on a date night or having a dinner party. The other side of that rule is to never drink alcohol when I’m feeling bad. Like many women, I would often turn to a glass of Pinot Noir after a rough day, but I’ve replaced that with Kava tea and the longer-term effects have been pretty staggering. Even one glass of wine makes me feel yucky the next day and it actually increases my anxiety symptoms in the long run.

Writing: When I get anxious about something, it helps me to write it down. I’m here doing it publicly but I encourage you to journal about your feelings. Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, in this case) is more therapeutic than you may think. Let your mind just flow, don’t think about what you’re writing. It’s just for you. Sometimes getting fears out onto the paper helps to process them.

Have positive conversations: Most conversations I’ve had in the last week, whether in the checkout line at the grocery store, at school pick up, or on a phone call, have centered around the Coronavirus. I would feel more and more drained after each depressing chat so I made a rule to try to have more positive conversations. Yes, obviously we all need to talk about the fallout and the fears we’re experiencing but try to pepper in what you’re doing to make things better. How are you preparing?  What are you doing to keep yourself and your family healthy and happy? Although it can seem impossible, look for the positive in the situation. It helps.

Do something that makes you happy: We’ve been reading Amalia extra books at night so we can get extra snuggles. We are planning to watch a stand-up comedy tonight. Little moments like this calm us down and can turn around even the most intense anxiety for me. It’s all about taking a step out of the mess for a moment.

Follow CDC guidelines: This isn’t necessarily for anxiety but please wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, stay home if you’re sick, cover your coughs and sneezes, and clean frequently touched objects and surfaces in your home.

I’m sending you all love and light and prayers for good health today and always! You’re not alone. We’re all in it together.

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  1. Cynthia said:

    Thank you so much for this. I also suffer from anxiety and try my best to keep it at bay. However, this Coronavirus has amped my anxiety up. Trying hard to remain level headed. I have a 4 year old and 4 month old. I appreciate being able to relate to someone. Thank you again! I feel like you took my thoughts and wrote them down 🙂

    3.12.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      We are all in this together. Hang in there!

      3.16.20 · Reply
  2. Sarah said:

    Thank you for being so candid, easy or tough topics you’re an absolute breath of fresh air.

    3.12.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Thank you so much for saying that. It means a lot!

      3.16.20 · Reply
  3. Melanie said:

    Ugggh. This! Thanks for writing exactly how I feel.

    3.12.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Sorry you’re feeling this way too but I hope this helps!

      3.16.20 · Reply
  4. Kristin said:

    Thanks for this! I live in Florida and we’re used to the panic / anxiety surrounding hurricane prep – this is very similar as we watch the virus spread. Some tips I’ve learned on easing anxiety and prepping through the years:

    – Make sure to withdraw a decent amount of cash in small bills, should you need it for goods and services.
    – Keep your car full of gas in case you need to get out of town quickly
    – Make sure all of your valuable documents are in a doc box in one place, should you need them
    – Buy some yummy treats, fun bath / beauty products, games and books on your wishlist for downtime and an escape
    – Try tackling a difficult recipe that takes some time and effort. It will take your mind off things for a bit and your family benefits from it as well!
    – Try to keep to your normal routine and eat healthy as much as possible
    – Allow yourself specific times to check the news, ideally morning, noon, and night – don’t keep it rolling all day – rereading the doom and gloom headlines is a complete compulsive habit but also trigger for me

    Stay safe everyone!

    3.12.20 · Reply
  5. Hayley said:

    Thank you for this! These are such crazy times. Taking things day by day is such good advice (despite being so hard to abide by!) May this time pass quickly and may we look back with relief that we ‘overreacted’ (I do not think you are at all by the way),

    3.13.20 · Reply
  6. Jen said:

    Julia, this is the perfect article for me this morning! Over here in London, people are majorly panicking and I’m now forced to work from home and it’s making me SUPER anxious. Thanks for the tips and stay healthy over there!

    3.13.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I’m so sorry to hear that, Jen! I hope you’re able to stay calm and healthy this week xx

      3.16.20 · Reply
  7. Megan said:

    Thank you for this. Up until about 48 hours ago I wasn’t feeling too crazy, but Wednesday night tipped things. I’m a NYC teacher and schools have no plans to close as of now, which I thought was the right thing earlier this week, but now I’m freaked. I’m feeling grateful that my husband works from home and can keep our 3 1/2 year old daughter with him right now. Sending love to you and everyone trying to manage their worry about the unknown!

    3.13.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I saw that they officially closed now which is the best decision for sure. I hope you and your family are staying healthy and calm.

      3.16.20 · Reply
  8. Thank you for your (as always) rational, calming positive outlook. Sending lots of healthy love and enjoy time with your beautiful family. Maybe this will give you more time to experiment and share yummy recipes!

    3.13.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Same back to you and yes I hope so! Although so far I’ve been only wanting comfort food… Not the healthiest!

      3.16.20 · Reply
  9. Shannon said:

    Thank you for sharing how you’re coping! As a fellow mama with anxiety I’d be lying if I said my mind wasn’t beginning to spiral as events and school closures continue to be announced in our city. Doing my best to find my calm but it’s a work in progress.
    I saw your story about Amalia getting frustrated from all the hand washing and wanted to offer so suggestions to make it a bit more fun and have her feel more in control (I’m an early childhood specialist turned SAHM). Give her the visual of washing her hands clean: by painting spots on her hands or some glitter, or by using food to squish (avocados, ketchup, yogurt…) to make her hands visually messy before washing them clean. Or giving her the power to choose by having lots of soap options, either colors, scents, and variety of types- foam, gel, bar. “Which soap would you like to wash with? You get to pick!” As well as sink options- “we are going to wash our hands now, what sink should we use?” Any sink in your home will offer her the power to choose, even using the tub faucet and leaning over the tub to wash can be fun! Toddlers struggle with wanting autonomy over their body, so the more choices offered make them feel in control. But the trick is mommy still had the win of washing hands but little one thinks they won because they did it their own way.

    3.13.20 · Reply
  10. Stephanie said:

    As someone with anxiety, I had to stay off of social media (mostly Twitter and Facebook) when I started feeling overwhelmed. But reading creditable sources and trustworthy information helped me understand what The Coronavirus is and what I need to do to keep my family safe.

    Stephanie | SPV Living

    3.13.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I agree with that. I’m trying to tune out the noise while staying informed. Which is, sadly, harder than it should be.

      3.16.20 · Reply
  11. Jen said:

    Sorry, I know this comment has nothing to do with this post but it has everything to do with the photo you shared – that blanket looks like the perfect cozy blanket and I’m on the hunt for just that. Do you mind sharing where it’s from?

    3.13.20 · Reply
  12. Hi! I’ve been looking for that amazing blog post you shared on Insta-stories yesterday – about unity in the face of this. Thanks so much! You have been an oasis of sanity 🙂

    3.14.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      xoxo

      3.16.20 · Reply