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Dr. Jamie Howard on Managing Anxiety and Stress During the Coronavirus Pandemic 

The coronavirus pandemic can be particularly difficult for people who suffer from anxiety disorders. That’s why we decided to consult Dr. Jamie M. Howard, a senior clinical psychologist in the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute and the director of the Center’s Trauma and Resilience Service, for her advice on how to cope.
Dr. Howard specializes in treating children, adolescents, and adults with anxiety and mood disorders, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Here, we rounded up the most frequently asked questions we received from the Something Navy Instagram audience along with Dr. Howard’s advice on how to help.

What is the best way to stay motivated and cope with added anxiety while working from home?

It can be really difficult to maintain motivation right now with the social isolation and anxiety that many of us are feeling. Something that can be very helpful is to maintain your connections to people, your friends, and your family but also your coworkers and mentors. The more you can stay connected the more inspired you can become, and you can try to keep that motivation high.

As you start your day, get your mind into a good place by adopting a new routine or ritual where you do some mindfulness for ten minutes or do some stretching. You should also make a general plan for the day ahead and focus on major things you want to accomplish. It can also be really hard to be stuck in your house for so long, so we definitely recommend outdoor activities when you can–going into your backyard if you have one of go to a park and keep your distance from others.

If you could distill your wisdom into a particular habit for people right now, what would it be?

If I could quickly distill my knowledge about anxiety what I would say is: we have to tolerate uncertainty. A lot of times we try to reassure ourselves or gather as much information as possible so that we can decrease the uncertainty. But sometimes we have no choice but to accept that we are not in control and that we need to tolerate this until we have more information. Plan to the extent you can and accept when you cannot. 

How should I handle the nonstop (and often negative) news coverage of the coronavirus?

I recommend that people limit their news consumption to no more than two to three times per day for no more than 30 minutes at a time. It’s important to check the news at least once a day, because this is a rapidly evolving situation, and you want to be in the know so you can plan appropriately, but you definitely do not need minute by minute updates. It can certainly make people feel overwhelmed and anxious beyond the point of being helpful.

As someone with crippling anxiety, what are some immediate relief tips that you can give during this time?

For people who have pre-existing anxiety, this can be a very difficult time. One of the most important coping strategies we have for dealing with anxiety is belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing. What that means is you breathe in a slow and steady paced way ideally from your diaphragm or your lower belly and this can help to get the proper amount of oxygen back in your blood and tone down that fight or flight response

What is the best way to explain to my kids what is going on without worrying them?

It is very important that you talk to your kids about coronavirus especially because most are pretty aware of it since most kids are not in school right now. The tone is very important–you want to have a calm matter of fact tone, give them the facts, answer questions they have, but you do not need to explain more than what they are asking. A lot of times kids might be worried about something that’s inaccurate, so you have an opportunity to correct misinformation.

How do I help my kids who are dealing with anxiety that they’ve never experienced before?

If your kids have anxiety right now and they never have before, they would probably benefit from some new routines being put in place. Kids really thrive on predictability and routine and that’s totally turned upside down right now. So you can create a new routine or structure and it doesn’t have to be super strict. They might also benefit from some reassurance and extra hugs, especially younger children. Older kids might need some support in setting up a workspace at home and having permission to be in touch with their friends more than usual.

How should I handle arguing with my significant others with nowhere to escape to?

A lot of couples are getting on one another’s nerves being cooped up and that makes total sense. What you probably want to do is sort of a classic couples therapy intervention which is having a pre-planned timeout, so basically you decide where your place is going to be in the home and where the partner’s place is going to be. Then either one of you can call a time out and go to your respective places for 20-30 minutes maximum, and then come back together after your short time apart. 

How do you talk yourself down from imagining the worst scenarios?

It can be tough to resist the urge to think about the worst-case scenarios. We call this catastrophic thinking but usually, it is not realistic–it is a thinking trap. One activity you can do is you can write down all your worst-case scenarios and you write down all the best-case scenarios, and then you can find the most realistic scenario in the middle and write that down. That scenario can become a mantra to yourself.

Try These 10 Apps For Extra Support:

  1. Talk Space
  2. Youper
  3. headspace
  4. Calm
  5. Simple Habit
  6. Moment
  7. Peak
  8. Calm Harm
  9. Audible for Wellness
  10. Breethe

 

 

PS: *These are editorially selected, but if you purchase, Something Navy may get something in return. Thanks

By SN Edit

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