SHREVEPORT, La. — The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone. Changes in job status, finances, children’s schooling and more have created stress and anxiety for many.
While anxiety is normal in stressful situations, when it becomes chronic or affects daily activities it can have a detrimental effect on your health.
Symptoms of anxiety can include excessing worrying, intrusive thoughts, fatigue and fast heart rate. Many people now have pandemic anxiety, which involves fear of being around large crowds of people. So, while the pandemic still rages on, what are some ways to cope with anxiety?
Dr. Yalda Safai says if the anxiety is causing disruptions in your life, a counselor can help. Learning skills to deal with it is much better than starting with medication.
“I always say the first line of defense is seeing a therapist, a therapist before a psychiatrist for medications, because a lot of times we just need coping skills to help us get through the ups and downs in life. And right now, the past two years, it’s been the ultimate down in life; the pandemic has been hard on everybody,” said Safai. “And if we seek out coping skills, if we learn skills to get us through that time, it would definitely be beneficial for us.”
Being outside often helps. Breathing in fresh air and taking in a change of scenery can clear the mind.
Because anxiety often flares up when a person fears or dreads a future event, learning to focus on the present is very helpful. Look around the room and notice what is around you. What can you hear, smell, feel? If you are sitting in a chair, notice how the chair is supporting you. If you are standing, feel the ground beneath your feet. Allowing your senses to focus on your present reality can ease the worry of the future.
Another way to cope with anxiety is to get up and move.
“Exercise is the best medicine especially for anxiety. I can’t stress this enough. I always tell every single one of my patients, that first thing you do when you’re anxious should be exercising. But unfortunately, when you’re anxious and depressed, the last thing you want to do is get out of bed and hit the gym. So, I understand the struggle,” Safai said. “But if you can, if you have to pick one thing to help you through an anxious time, it should be exercise.”
Also, focusing on your breath and meditating are ways to calm your body and mind. There are several apps available that can assist you in learning these skills.
Whichever tools you use, the important thing is to take care of chronic anxiety before it negatively affects your health.