Ann Stromberg, Emotional Wellness Counselor
COVID-19 Survival Guide
We have been anxious to find out when we may get our “normal” lives back and now we know the first steps will begin this week. The gradual reopening of business will be good for the economy, something that is very needed. Reopening the state for business is a mix of excitement for our professional life and yet still terrifying for our personal life. If you have been socially distancing within the recommended guidelines, you have most likely spent the last 6 weeks quarantined at home. Spending time at home has created a sense of security and safety that has allowed us to avoid COVID-19. Leaving our safe cocoons to head out into a potential danger zone of germs creates a new level of anxiety. If you have ventured out at all during this quarantine, passing someone without a mask or not social distancing may have left you upset. Being angry with a stranger is very different than coming back to an office where co-workers may not adhere to the same standard of protection. We are going to open Ohio and find ourselves with a lot of new concerns about our safety and the behaviors of others. We head back to work with a new mode of operation and new stressors.
Anxiety is defined as having fear, sometimes irrational, with an excessive reaction that interferes with our daily functioning. COVID-19 is causing many people to feel anxious about their health and safety. Feeling anxious when there is a real threat is normal, we should be feeling anxious now. Spending many weeks confined at home with an uncertain end is a valid source of anxiety. Feeling anxious about reentering society in any manner is also a source of normal anxiety. Learning to manage our normal anxiety to keep it from becoming excessive begins with self-awareness. Becoming aware of our feelings can help manage anxious feelings. However, we need to acknowledge our concerns, because they help us remain safe. The anxious feelings are our brain’s way to help us avoid a dangerous situation. Under normal ciscumstances, returning to work should not feel dangerous, but this virus has us all feeling threatened.
Hopefully, we will all get back to work, and our “normal” lives, but it is clear the way we have functioned in the world will be changed. New situations tend to make us feel anxious because we feel a lack of control. Self-awareness is one of the best techniques to manage anxiety and find some control in each situation. Being self-aware can help cue you in that when something is not right. Self-awareness enhances our ability to take action to get back on track. If you notice you are feeling more nervous, irritable, notice difficulty sleeping or concentrating, it may be time to assess what you are feeling. Acknowledging your feelings is the first strategy to manage our reactions. Once we determine that we feel anxious we can take steps to correct the situation. Planning to go back to the workplace is important. We need to determine our comfort level so we can prepare for what we come back to. Allow for time to plan ahead, troubleshoot the things that cause you the most concern, and be ready with a plan and your own supplies. Some situations may require more advanced planning, for instance, having the protective supplies you need to feel confident in public. If returning to the workplace feels uncertain, take time to determine if it will be safe for you, and bring what you need for your peace of mind. We are all able to take control of our safety and health. We can return to our workplace and feel confident we are taking the precautions necessary for everyone’s safety.