Question: I am really worried about the Coronavirus pandemic. How can I manage my anxiety and not feel so lonely?
I first want you to know that you are not alone in your feelings. This experience has brought up many worries and anxieties for everyone. You may be worrying about your own health or that of your loved ones. This may cause trouble sleeping, changes in eating habits or even difficulty concentrating.
It is easy to focus on all the things that have changed in the last few weeks. We can start by acknowledging that much has changed and how that affects us emotionally. Our daily routines are no doubt different as we cannot go safely in public or even do the simple errands we are used to. Our visits with friends and families have stopped. We are isolated at home and no doubt fearful of the long-term effects on our lifestyle and our economy.
However, it is also useful to focus on the things that have not changed. Even if you cannot see your loved ones in person, those relationships are still a constant. Your home has not changed, and we have not been evacuated.
I encourage you to rank those things that are different in your daily life now and decide which is the most difficult for you.
For example, if the thing you miss most is visits with family and friends, then try increasing your phone calls. Consider setting up a video call if you have the technology at home. Either a smart phone or a computer with a camera will allow you to video conference with family and friends. It has become very popular for people to have video conference social hours to stay engaged with friends.
It may help to think of it as “physically” distancing ourselves rather than “socially” distancing ourselves. We can still find ways to be social in new ways during this physical separation. If you need someone to have a friendly phone call with then reach out to the Senior Support Line at 1-800-235-9980.
You may find that there is anxiety in not being comfortable shopping for yourself. You can try online shopping or delivery services. The Ventura County Area Agency on Aging will deliver you a box of food to last up to two weeks. Call 805-477-7300 to sign up. If you live on the East side of the county you can reach out to Senior Concerns for a volunteer shopping service at 805-497-0189.
Prioritize your mental health. Take breaks from watching the news and make sure to get fresh air. Taking walks is still a safe activity if you keep a 6-foot distance from other people you see on the path.
Another great way to help feel better is by reaching out to help someone else. Even if you are staying home there is much you can do to support your friends and family. Sometimes taking the focus off ourselves can be of great benefit to our anxiety.
If you reach out for support, you may be surprised what you will find. We are all in this together and by staying home and staying safe we can help our entire community.
Martha Shapiro can reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.