Life as we know it has taken an unbelievable turn since our world was forced to face a serious pandemic. Our work and social routines have changed dramatically, and many are experiencing fear and anxiety from the uncertainty of it all.
The good news is, experts agree there’s no need to panic. According to Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist Joseph Vinetz, MD, “While our daily lives are going to be interrupted for weeks or months, this isn’t our first pandemic—we have dealt with worse. Many people may be infected, but the vast majority of people will be fine.”
But what about our emotional state? Now’s a good idea to assess any anxiety you’re feeling and see what mental health issues may need addressing. With open-ended quarantine timelines and so many other unknowns, taking charge of your emotions may help return a much-needed sense of control.
Carolyn Mazure, PhD, a Yale Medicine psychologist, describes the current environment as a “legitimately anxious-making time.” Her advice: “Develop a strategy for managing anxiety that works for you—such as practicing meditation or yoga.”
This isn’t our first pandemic—we have dealt with worse. Many people may be infected, but the vast majority of people will be fine.
Here are some simple strategies to manage anxiety, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
Limit your news consumption. Take breaks from consuming news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can cause anxiety. If you notice you’re more anxious at night, try to avoid watching or reading any news a few hours before bed.
Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, meditate, or practice mindfulness. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise, get adequate sleep, and avoid drugs or alcohol. If you’re unsure how to practice deep breathing, follow the steps below:
- Start by setting a timer for 5 minutes.
- Sit in a comfortable space.
- Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds and hold it briefly.
- Exhale through your nose for 6 seconds.
- Continue this practice for the remainder of the time.
Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy such as reading a book, taking a hot bath, walking your dog, or gardening.
Connect with others. Whether you’re quarantined or social distancing, you can still maintain contact with friends and family by phone, video chat, and social media. By sharing your thoughts with friends and family, you can mitigate stress.
Challenge your irrational thoughts and replace them with facts. Understanding the facts about COVID-19 and the actual risk to yourself and people you care about can make an outbreak less stressful. When you arm yourself with accurate information about COVID-19, you can reduce your stress and help others feel less stress.
If you’re unable to cope with your anxiety on your own, seek professional help. If you’re concerned about seeing a provider in person, you may be able to meet with a mental health professional through phone or video chat, or even online messaging therapy sessions. State employees have access to a wide range of online resources through the Employee Assistance Program.
For additional resources on coping with anxiety, check out the helpful expert tips and resources for coronavirus anxiety put together by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
When you arm yourself with accurate information about COVID-19, you can reduce your stress and help others feel less stress.
Resources for Parents
Children and teens react, in part, to behavior they observe from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children.
Here are some ways the CDC recommends you support your child:
- Take time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand.
- Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Let them know it is OK if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
- Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
- Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.
- Be a role model. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.
Learn more about helping children cope during challenging times.
Resources for CalPERS Members
The CalPERS team recognizes that the global pandemic resulting from the coronavirus is creating uncertainty and concern among our members. We want to reassure you that your benefits are safe, and we are fully operational. Despite the circumstances, CalPERS is here for you. Learn more about how we’re addressing COVID-19.