Counselors give tips to coping during virus outbreak

Taking a break from news coverage or surrounding yourself by nature can help reduce stress and anxiety at a time when many are confined to their homes during the coronavirus outbreak, counselors say.

The coronavirus outbreak is not only affecting people physically but mentally as well.

Local counselor Lexie Lee of Lee Counseling Services said the stress surrounding the coronavirus outbreak can affect everyone’s mental health, especially those with anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and fears of germs and people.

“With anxiety, anytime there is something that you don’t know the outcome— ‘Is it going to affect me? When is it going to end?’— there are so many unknowns that can really drive people’s anxiety,” Lee said.

Events, like vacations, parties and weddings, being canceled and workers being sent home can also cause stress for families, local counselor Mary Kathryn Nader, of Hope Counseling and Consulting Services, said.

“There’s a financial stress of people who aren’t able to work, and then that also plays into our identity and sense of fulfillment because we like to get things done,” Nader said. “But then, there’s the financial uncertainty of how long will this last, will I still have my job. For small business owners, I know a lot are really worried about if they’re even going to be able to stay afloat.”

In addition, people often turn to connection with others to feel better, and this is not as easily available during times of self-quarantining, Lee said.

Nader also said people go to places like movie theaters and gyms to relieve stress, and some of these places are being closed down.

“A lot of the things that we typically do that can be kind of a stress relief and just having a normal routine schedule because a lot of those things have been removed makes it difficult,” Nader said. “I think people really just have to be creative on how they reach out to one another and how they interact with people.”

Lee recommends using technology positively such as connecting with people using FaceTime or Skype. People who have counseling appointments can have their meetings digitally. However, Lee said social media can drive anxiety by seeing negative posts.

Nader said people should take a break from coronavirus news coverage for at least an hour per day.

Aside from using technology to connect, Lee said being surrounded by nature can help, even if it’s just sitting on the porch.

“Nature is so therapeutic,” Lee said. “You feel better when you’re outside and can breathe some fresh air.”

Nader said people should create a new routine and find things to look forward to each day.

“Maybe it’s a routine that you’ve wanted but you haven’t ever been able to do because of your work schedule, like seeing it in a positive light,” Nader said.

Lee said people, especially those who are staying at home, should still remember to take care of basic needs like bathing and getting dressed for the day.

“If we are confined to our home, we’re working from home or the kids are home, there’s the tendency to say, ‘Oh, I can just stay in my PJ’s,’” Lee said. “Well, the first day, that feels good. After a couple of days, it can start to feel depressing. So, taking a shower, getting dressed, getting out of the house, finding some project where you feel that you can be productive, all of those things are important.”

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