“As a person dealing with years-long Health anxiety, I used to visit my family physician almost 3-4 times a month before I started therapy. This long period of relief ended when I was panicking about the deadly Corona Virus this month. I ran to almost 4-5 nearby clinics to get myself tested despite no obvious symptoms, the health facilities denied testing and brushed me off saying I was being over-involved with my fear. Only when my counselor told me that it’s okay to feel the way that I was feeling I felt someone was there to understand me and help me.”
With the people who struggle with health anxiety and apprehensions due to uncertainty already, this pandemic is none less than a nightmare. We witnessed clients with anxiety and stress desperate for help. With the increase in the rate of prevalence of COVID-19 each day, our counselors found an elevation in the symptoms of clients with anxiety who were in on-going therapy as well a surge in the client coming up with similar concerns resulting from the fear of uncertainty, fear of illnesses and the fear of dying or losing their loved ones is taking a toll on everyone’s mental health.
The common symptoms of stress and anxiety in times of COVID-19 and quarantine are dizziness, headache, muscle tension or soreness, stomach ache. On the psychological level, certain challenges you may experience are irritability, anger, loss of focus and attention, feeling jumpy and restless.
For many amongst us working out, running, going to the gym has been a way of combating stress in everyday lives. With the advent of the current situation in times of COVID-19 the gymnasiums, parks, community centers are shut down, people are home but they do not know how to fight stress being at home.
Another client seeking therapy for stress and anxiety due to break-up was able to regulate his emotions constructively through therapy sessions. As reported to his counselor he said the gym was one place that made him feel a little better as he really wanted to work on his body and also it gave him a sense of happiness that he is doing something for his growth. With time, he became more regular and passionate as he said, ‘When I look into the mirror, I like the person who is standing there.’ It was a huge breakthrough as he was addressing his emotions and anxiety constructively.
Recently, when gyms were closed, he couldn’t work out much and this made him tense. Now the sessions helped him work on a few alternatives to feel good mentally, such as:
Connect on video with gym friends and share fitness challenges and goals. This helped him sustain the motivation to work out at home regularly. Subscribe to an online fitness class to continue to work on his fitness goals. Engaging with family and involving them in yoga at home. Thus, spending quality time and reconnecting with them.
We all have a fear of death, fear of dying painfully or maybe alone, of leaving behind our loved ones. A condition called Thanatophobia is a psychological fear of death. In some people, this fear can lead to anxiety and hopelessness about the present. One of the experiences our counselor had was with a client dealing with this concern clubbed along with an impulse to google the different reasons for dying, which would include news about accidents, unnatural deaths, and illnesses. Coming across any disease, the client couldn’t control the urge to google about it. The more she read about the symptoms the more she imagined having them; only to become more distressed and anxious- a pattern defined as Cyberchondria which is a health-related internet behavior.
Only when the Corona outbreak started first in China the client started getting anxious about it. Her worst of the fears came true and was here booking an appointment when the first corona case in India appeared on news. Aspects of social isolation, intentional distancing from friends and colleagues was something the client engaged in even before the outbreak in her city. She was even scared of meeting her partner and going on the trip they planned for months.
To address the anxiety of these clients amid pandemic and panic due to it, the first things required were to make the clients avoid unreliable sources of information, looking up only on dedicated websites for information such as those of WHO, BBC, Forbes.
Gaining a sense of Grounding was the next step taken. Re-evaluating the client’s resources developed over the course of therapy helped her gain a sense of power over her thoughts. Teaching breadth work, grounding techniques, relaxation techniques, exercising indoor can help clients de-stress and think clearly.
With a more rational approach, the clients started taking precautionary steps that weren’t compulsive behaviors. Lastly, a constant check on Magnification or Maximizing thoughts around the pandemic is helping the clients manage repeated anxious thoughts around the illness.
If you have been feeling stressed or overwhelmed, or use this lockdown period for the growth opportunity don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
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