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Recovery blog

Recovery and Pandemic Stress

By: Jaclynn Cosan, PsyD, Team Leader at The Renfrew Center of Pittsburgh

Posted on April 06, 2020

With the spread of Coronavirus in the United States, our lives are changing in ways we never anticipated. If you are feeling scared, uncertain, frustrated, or even panicked, those emotions make sense. It's natural to experience distress in response to a health threat. Some amount of anxiety is motivating, reminding to you wash your hands or make alternative plans for transportation.

If you feel immobilized or overwhelmed by stress and panic, here are some skills to try:

1. Continue your treatment. The CDC recommends individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions follow their treatment plans, so speak with your therapist or nutritionist about how to maintain appointments. Many providers are offering options for telehealth.

2. Gently remind yourself that it's OK to feel anxious. Secondary reactions of guilt or judgement for feeling scared can amplify an already difficult situation.

3. Anchor in the present. Anxiety is often caused by fixating on what could happen. Press your feet into the floor, take time to breathe deeply, and remind yourself what is happening in the present moment.

4. Reach out for support. Contact a loved one, or access a Disaster Distress Hotline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.

5. Reduce media consumption. Watching the news can become an emotion-driven behavior for anxiety, ultimately fueling distress.

6. Take stock in your values. Major life events can clarify what's truly important to you in your life. Maybe this means connecting with family members or friends, or maybe this means finding a way to give back to others.

7. Keep your recovery a priority. Taking care of your physical and mental wellbeing will increase your resources for dealing with stress and illness.

Wash your hands, take in news from reputable sources, and remind yourself you are worthy of recovery, even when aspects of your life feel scary and out of control.

Jaclynn Cosan, PsyD, is Team Leader at the Renfrew Center of Pittsburgh. She received her Doctorate from the University of Denver, specializing in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. She is passionate about moving toward valued living, and she fills her life outside of work with art projects and board games.
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