Anxiety and the Coronavirus
(…and a little mindfulness too.)

I crossed paths with a colleague today who I have high regard for and asked how he was doing. He answered with a worried look on his face that he was feeling especially nervous and anxious. I instantly felt compassion for him and asked what exactly he was feeling anxious about, or if it was just a more general feeling.

He seemed to articulate what I’ve been hearing from lots of other folks lately, and I realized I went through a mental list of all the things I know are causing anxiety for people around me – (the primaries and election happening, trouble in their family relationships, their own compromised health, the cost of living and wanting to buy a house, general job stress, the coronavirus, etc.). Turns out this time he was most concerned about the coronavirus.

There’s a lot of a sense of fear, ‘I need information and answers’, ‘I don’t know what to do’, ‘I’m scared’, and even paranoia, going around – and all that anxiety seems to be what is spreading and contaminating our families, workplaces, communities most of all. For some people, it feels like an existential crisis. 

Maybe you’ve noticed an underlying sense of anxiety, nervousness, agitation in your body. Maybe it’s not underlying at all, but flat out in the open. If you haven’t felt it inside yourself, you’ve probably noticed how palpable it is in your surroundings. Work, school, family life, shopping, yoga class, diminished sleep, travel…

Wherever and however you experience it, how does it impact you? What do you try to do to feel more comfortable in your home or your own skin again?

I know when I feel afraid about something, I try to let that be a cue to myself to pause, breathe, reflect – be mindful…and being mindful about my anxiety has a way of helping me calm and not stay too wrapped up in it.

The following are some of the many things I’ve been mindful of as the coronavirus has been floating around:

The coronavirus has made me more mindful:

  • Noticing how much I touch my face, nose, eyes – and seeing how hard it is to try to do it less
  • Thinking about people I know who are traveling or live in areas where outbreaks have been reported
  • Noticing tension in my body when I think of my own upcoming travels
  • Doing more inversion yoga poses because my teacher said they’re good for immunity (downward dog and child’s pose especially)
  • Stocking up on tissues, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes and feeling the madness and anxiety that is out there in the public (and the empty shelves and overpriced items!)
  • Washing my hands way more often and taking a minimum of 20 seconds every time to just be present with the feeling of the water and soap and scrubbing on my hands. My colleague suggests making it a sacred time and considering it an act of love and care. 
  • A beautiful way to look at washing hands: “Washing our hands is an act that puts the hypervigilant body at ease. Washing our hands helps us return to ourselves by washing away what does not serve…It is already time to…care for one another, to pray over water, to wash the fear away, Every time we wash our hands…” (@dorimidnight)
  • Struggling with and trying to sit with the idea that we will probably all get sick
  • Feeling what fear feels like in my chest, throat, head
  • Checking on elderly parents and people who are vulnerable more often
  • Writing up a sick policy for my clients
  • Noting my feelings of not wanting to get sick, versus trying to have acceptance with whatever unfolds – and which causes me more anxiety. 
  • Feeling sadness for people who have already lost loved ones and a pervasive anticipatory sense of loss
  • Reassessing my own healthy & unhealthy habits
  • Feeling compassion for all people who have already had disruptions in their lives due to travel, work, events planned, not being able to get supplies, quarantines, healthcare workers who are ill, heightened racism
  • Feeling disgusted by the president’s disrespect about this crisis
  • Forgiving myself for trying to read up too much on the symptoms, how they are passed, possible treatment and outcomes, but also appreciating what I’m learning.
  • Feeling overwhelmed that there’s yet another big thing our world has to deal with, and we were already so beleaguered and fatigued
  • Recognizing the constriction and clenching in my heart and head when I feel alarmed, panicky
  • Realizing I can bring my own heart rate down with some slow breathing or stretching or mindful presence
  • Noticing how I differently I feel when I go from “please, not me” to “why not me?”
  • Knowing more clearly what’s in my control and what’s just outside my control
  • Recognizing all the healthy behaviors I do have
  • Feeling the sense of outcast people have when they are sick with regular cold and others don’t want to be near them
  • Witnessing economic injustice and drastic outcomes for people who cannot afford to not work/or be quarantined or have access to healthy lifestyles, versus those whose lives are only inconvenienced by this virus
  • Coronavirus is an equilateral infector (except for more toward the elderly ill) and doesn’t care about race, gender, socioeconomic status, but it has an unfair impact on people who are already systemically vulnerable
  • Coronavirus adds to “othering”, racism
  • Fist and elbow bumps, head nods, take priority over hugs, human touch
  • We’re all in this together

I saw an article that suggested some good mindful things to do to minimize the anxiety related to the coronavirus, namely:

  1. Take a break from the news
  2. Talk to someone
  3. Try to be present at the moment 
  4. Remind yourself of what you can control (i.e.: washing your hands, making reasonable preparations for illness)
  5. Practice gratitude 
  6. Reach out for help

I would add:

Have compassion for yourself and for your community.

If you or someone you love is struggling to deal with anxiety in your life, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

Many blessings, health, and wellness to you and yours. Take good care and make washing your hands be an act of grace!