In time of crisis, we must attend to our mental health
Trying to control the uncontrollable doesn't work. How we react to the coronavirus threat and accompanying hype is controllable in our lives if we don't panic, heed safety precautions, exercise caution, adjust our daily routines, and keep informed.
Stick to the known facts. Don't get all wound up with emotions expressed on social media. Focus on what you can do, not what you can't.
Simple advice? Yes. Easy to follow, perhaps no.
"Anxiety, when there's so much that is unknown, is very, very normal," said psychotherapist Marcia Frezza, LCSW-CP of Hilton Head Island. "It's our way of dealing with the experience that we have no control over and that's what creates anxiety."
"What people are trying to control is out of their control," said Philip Searcy, MA, LISW, a therapist at The Therapy Group in Bluffton. "We have no end date to this, and that's the part that's driving people the most crazy."
There's no doubt that the 24/7 news coverage of events that steamrolls across our TV and computer screens every minute of every day contributes to our anxieties at home. Numbers tell the story, but they don't tell the human story and the effect on us seeing those numbers. Our eyes and clarity of mind are blurred by the onslaught of news.
"Go to a trusted news source but don't overindulge," Frezza said. "They are talking heads. They will be talking at 6 in the morning until 6 o'clock the next morning. They talk around the clock."
She suggests checking in with a news sources once or twice a day for headline news. Nothing more. Too much news-sensory overload can tilt our normal lives.
"The media frenzy is kind of a fear-based agenda," Searcy said. "We live in a world where we have instant access to too much information and our need to be connected ... actually disconnects us from reality, and we aren't able to live in the present moment because our brain is trying to prepare us so much for something that may or may not happen."
So, what do we do to reduce anxiety and live a new normal?
"You have to think proactively, plan your time and day as carefully as you can, so you won't be flooded with anxiety," Frezza said. "Planning is the key here. ... Whatever you can do to focus on taking your mind off this anxiety is being preventative."
Some suggestions are: Take a walk, play board games at home, tend to your garden, wander in nature, meditate, call and write friends, watch a funny movie, hop in your car for a ride in the country, listen to your favorite music, reorganize your kitchen or closets, read a book on the porch, and so on.
"The first step is awareness," Searcy said. "When people aren't aware that their thinking is being created by what they're watching, they're not managing their thoughts and will continue to feel this overwhelming sense of fear."
He advised tapping into all five senses in your new normal life. Take long baths, light scented candles, play tennis, get enough sleep and breathe deeply. In other words, address a life balance of emotional, mental, physical and spiritual needs.
"It comes down to balance and moderation," Searcy said. And if you feel that you've "exhausted your personal resources but are not getting the results, seek a professional."
Lowcountry resident Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.