How to limit anxiety in the face of a tsunami of bad news COVID


Social support, breathing routines, good sleep and exercise can help overcome many of the stressors associated with the pandemic.

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We have no control over, for example, the path of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, when the increasing number of cases peak, or when the peak of hospitalizations tends to decline.


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However, we have some control over how we react to all of this.

The past few days have brought a tsunami of bad news related to the pandemic. It feels like 2020 again. We asked academics and mental health professionals how not to let anxiety or fear get the best of us.

Marlene Grossman, professor of psychology at Vanier College, asks herself this question: Can I control this situation? “And if the answer is no, I have learned, out of necessity, to let it go,” she said.

And so, she wears a mask, practices social distancing, and chooses who she socializes with. Limiting social contact doesn’t mean not staying connected. Think about FaceTime, Zoom, and Social Distancing Walks (again).

Rely on reputable news sources and limit your exposure to social media, recommends Grossman.


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“The other thing I tell myself is to stop the ‘What if?’ What if I go to work and contract COVID? What if I walk into the pharmacy and someone is sick there? The “What if? Can drive you crazy. Do not play this game.

Stopping catastrophic thinking means catching up and turning to a mindfulness or breathing exercise instead. Grossman does “a lot of breathing exercises,” meditates, and runs online exercise sessions twice a week with a trainer. It all helps.

Anna Weinberg, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at McGill University, recommends a technique known as box breathing, used by Navy SEALs to relieve stress: set a timer to remind yourself to take a one-hour break. minute from time to time. Exhale for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, breathe in at the same rate, then hold the air in your lungs for a count of four before exhaling. Repeat the cycle.


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Stress is a risk factor for a wide range of health problems, including anxiety and depression, and several elements make the coronavirus pandemic a particularly powerful stressor, she said: among them lie its chronic nature, the way it can erode sources of comfort such as social support and the lingering uncertainty that has permeated our lives because of it.

As the holder of the Canada Research Chair in Clinical Neurosciences, Weinberg’s research focuses on the development of depression and anxiety, two of the most common illnesses. Levels are already high around the world and may well increase as the pandemic continues, so it’s important to promote strategies we can use to alleviate the damaging effects of stress, ”she said.


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Evidence shows that social support is extremely beneficial in protecting against stress: the pandemic, of course, reduces our ability to obtain social support. “But we know it’s one of the best ways to not be overwhelmed by stressors,” Weinberg said. Plan social distance walks outside, ideally in green spaces.

Sleep is “really important for people to deal with stress effectively.” But when we’re stressed, sleep is affected – so keep screens out of the bedroom, she advises. “And don’t read the news until you fall asleep.”

Have a bedtime routine, incorporating whatever calming ritual works for you – a cup of herbal tea, perhaps, or a bath.

There is significant evidence that exercise, including walking and hiking, is an extremely effective stress reduction strategy, Weinberg said, “It’s a good way to stay sane and healthy for pandemic winter. “


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Make 10 minutes of what you consider high-intensity exercise “is really beneficial in modulating the sympathetic nervous system’s response to stress,” she said.

“It doesn’t change the situation, but it does allow you to control how you respond to it.”

Psychotherapist Moira Luce of the Argyle Institute in Montreal observes that “we are nervous – and we feed off each other’s nervousness.” The anxiety felt by one person tends to be reflected in another – “this emotional contagion”.

Practice gratitude, she advises. Research has shown that gratitude supplants anxiety – we can’t feel two things at the same time.

Sometimes we have to seek gratitude in the smallest of ways, Luce said. “Express your gratitude for the patience you have shown since the pandemic began almost two years ago – and for the fact that you are adjusting.


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“Be thankful for trusting your instincts and choosing to make a difficult decision. For me, that’s a big thing.

Do something enjoyable every day, said clinical psychologist Dr. Mara Riff, director and co-founder of the Westmount openspaceclinic Wellness Center, whether it’s watching a favorite TV show or cooking a dish you love.

“Rather than living your life in what feels like a constant state of crisis, you better say, ‘This is the new normal and I’m adjusting.'”

Don’t be rigid, she said, because things will change very quickly.

And as Grossman reminds us: be kind to others, because everyone fights.

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  1. Montreal psychotherapist Vikki Stark, director of the Sedona consultation center in Montreal, blog on Psychology Today.  She wrote an inspiring article on staying positive during the COVID-19 crisis and finding the good in the bad.

    In times of coronavirus, good things can be found, therapist says

  2. Our collective trauma: how will the pandemic change us?

  3. Coronavirus anxiety is a normal response. Here are ways to cope

  4. Reverend Graham Singh, Rector of St Jax of Montreal, has a few tips: If so, and while wearing your mask, stop and say hello to someone.

    Are you ready for winter during a pandemic?



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