By Dr. Patrick Keelan
Special to the Cochrane Eagle
As a psychologist working in Cochrane, my goal in this article is to give you strategies to help you manage your anxiety during the difficult time we are all experiencing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. First, keep in mind that anxiety is an appropriate response to genuine concerns and challenges. So to have anxiety in the face of a realistic concern like the coronavirus is reasonable.
Secondly, you can apply a two-pronged approach to reduce your anxiety to manageable levels during this period. This entails using a combination of problem-focused coping strategies and self-focused coping strategies.
Problem-focused coping strategies entail taking action to address the stressful situation directly to reduce your anxiety. In this instance, it would entail seeking information which will allow you to take steps to avoid contracting the virus if you don’t have it or to treat it and prevent spreading if you have it.
This involves actions like washing your hands, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and face and disinfecting areas you and others have touched. It can also entail avoiding unnecessary contact through social distancing.
Self-focused coping strategies involve using skills, strategies and activities to manage your emotional reaction to stressful events as a way of further lowering your anxiety to manageable levels. Self-focused strategies are of three kinds:
1. Behavioural self-focused coping entails engaging in pleasurable activities to give yourself a break from thinking about your problems. Doing so will help you to avoid dwelling on worries about the coronavirus pandemic.
2. Physical self-focused coping involves practicing activities to calm your body when you are feeling tense as a result of sources of stress in your life. This includes activities such as controlled breathing, meditation, muscle relaxation, imagery and regular aerobic exercise. When your body is calmer, coping with a stressor like the coronavirus pandemic is easier.
3. Cognitive self-focused coping involves reducing your negative emotional reaction to sources of stress by changing the way you think about them. This would entail gathering information and evidence to help you view the coronavirus pandemic in a proper perspective. By doing so, you can acknowledge the evidence indicating the seriousness of the issue while reminding yourself of additional evidence which points to you and those close to you ultimately making it through this challenging event.
Applying the strategies discussed in this article will help you to keep your anxiety at a manageable level during this challenging time. You may find it helpful to work with a psychologist specializing in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) while doing so. You may contact our clinic at 403-932-6165 for more information.
Dr. Patrick Keelan, registered psychologist
Myriad Psychology Centre Inc.