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TXWES counseling professor talks about dealing with anxiety

05.14.2020 | By: Texas Wesleyan University
Linda Metcalf

The pandemic has been hard on everyone and has caused some unwanted anxiety in our lives. Dr. Linda Metcalf, professor and director of graduate counseling programs, has some thoughts on how to deal anxiety.

What are some tips for calming anxiety during the COVID-19 crisis?

Many people already have coping mechanisms they use with other situations, which can be applied to the current circumstances. In addition, going outside, gardening, walking (with social distancing in mind) and looking honestly at the situation currently, can elicit hope. 

Thoughts during this time can become overwhelming, so writing down our anxious thoughts can make them seem more manageable, and allow our minds to reframe them. For example:  "I lost my job and I will never get another one."  That can turn into: "I did lose my job, but I was able to get that one...how can I plan to secure another one?"

What can we do to feel more in control during this time of uncertainty?

Think about what you DO have control over. You have control over your actions right now, although maybe not the ones that you prefer, but they are there for the choosing. 

Focusing on things that can be done, such as studying, eating healthy, practicing social distancing and tackling unfinished projects, can provide a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of control.

How can parents support their children through the COVID-19 crisis?

Parents can model that they are concerned but hopeful, and reassure their children that they will take care of them.

They can encourage them to do schoolwork when it is assigned. Talk to kids about the benefits of learning and hard work, even if traditional grades are no longer an incentive. If workloads become too challenging, be sure to communicate with teachers. Everyone is on a learning curve.

For extroverts, social distancing may be difficult. How can they deal with the lack of personal interaction?

Talking six feet apart can work! If people live in neighborhoods, gather occasionally in the street or on a lawn, 6 feet apart and chat. It is amazing how many neighborhoods are coming up with social means of staying in touch.

Our neighborhood had a food truck come last weekend for two hours. There were 6 foot markers to help us keep a distance, and everyone talked and enjoyed the time. Seeking ways to keep one's extroverted personality happy simply means changing up how communication can happen. Also, many people are doing virtual "happy hours" and many people tell me it is the highlight of their week!  

Making some adaptations to our lives can lead to some personal satisfaction during these difficult times. Seeing this time as an opportunity that will most probably not happen again in the near future, and accomplishing something that you can feel good about, can make the time manageable, both emotionally and cognitively.

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