Coping with anxiety during a pandemic

Lately I’ve had an extremely difficult time coping with the sheer amounts of anxiety wracking my brain. First I caught a cold and my brain was trying to convince me that it was Corona Virus, and now that I’m basically over that, I’m struggling to believe that I can step outside of the front door without catching Corona Virus.

It makes no sense. I know this. My neighbourhood is sparse. Large yards, minimal homes, basically no chance of stepping out the front door and meeting anyone. But still, the fear of stepping outside of my front door is very real.

Today I sat in the truck outside of the Pharmacy for a half hour before I could actually work up the nerve to go in. And, when I did go in, it was only because I’d gotten a pep-talk from Knight on the phone.

I’m probably alone in this, but lately, every time I actually go to the store (which is the absolute minimal possible), my anxiety likes to play this game with me where I’ll be wandering the aisles to quickly grab what I want and I’ll feel a swell in my throat. Is it a sickness swell? No. More or less just one of those swells that comes before a big gulp when you’re trying to get past your nerves. But anxiety, damn anxiety, it tells me ‘that’s it… he/she was asymptomatic and he/she just gave it to you without knowing it’.

It’s not logical. I know it’s not logical.

I want to get to a point where my brain understands and appreciates the cautionary measures that I’m trying to make and doesn’t automatically turn them into fear.

Caution, not fear. That is my goal.

It’s important to be cautious right now. And realistically, when I go into a store wearing a mask, don’t get within ten feet of anyone, use the self-checkout and am out of the store within ten minutes, that’s caution. That’s smart. I know what I need, I know what aisles they’re in and there’s no need to browse or wander. That’s caution. Having outside clothing and indoor clothing, washing outside clothing after it’s been worn outside, that’s caution.

I don’t want to fear the world. People aren’t wandering around licking strangers in the store. I know this. I need to learn how to deliver that reassurance to my brain.

Things I’m doing to cope:

  • Forcing myself to go into the store because if I need an item and it cannot wait for another day or another time, then sitting in the parking lot, prolonging the struggle isn’t helping my brain
  • Reminding myself that no one else wants to get sick either, and with that notion, I should be confident enough to know they’ll want to stay as far away from me as I wish to stay from them
  • Careful and calm breathing and methodical movement in public and acknowledging the difference between needs and wants. Planning ahead, so that if I have to go to the store, I’m going to the store once and getting everything in one go
  • Going for walks through the bush because exercise is good for the body, mind and soul, sunshine is good for my mood and there’s still so much snow on the trails that they’re basically abandoned (see photo)
  • Not allowing myself to feel this productivity guilt that’s become trendy around the web as of late, trying to remind myself that ‘just being’ is enough right now
  • Taking all precautionary measures to stay safe and stay healthy
  • Learning how to tolerate the uncertainty of the world right now. When will this end? I don’t know. And I have to be okay with the unknown. The goal is to keep as many people as healthy as possible. The goal is not to ‘open the economy’. Knowing that if we’re smart about this, more people can stay safe
  • Trying to look forward to post pandemic life, living in the city, working my dream job, paying off my debts, being happy

If I can keep calm, turn the fear into caution, I think getting through this pandemic will be a whole lot easier to deal with.

Has anyone else been dealing with anxiety about going in public? Those times when you have to, when you just can’t avoid it, when it’s a requirement to go out… how do you deal?

49 thoughts on “Coping with anxiety during a pandemic

    1. It is helpful. Nobody wants to get sick, so reminding yourself of that when you have to leave your house does provide some ease of mind.

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  1. You use good strategies. I give myself a pep-talk before going outside to walk the dog or shop. Most of the time, my husband goes into the store, and I walk the dog while waiting for him to come back. When I know I need to go into the store myself, I plan to have something ready to divert myself when I return home, often with anxiety after being outside. I think of that when shopping, so I often can control the little signs of an anxiety attack, before it all goes crazy in my mind.

    During this pandemic, I have learned to cope with the anxiety by being very open about it and by writing about it.

    Your descriptions are very accurate. I also want to get out of the store as quickly as possible.

    I hope you feel better soon. Lots of positive thoughts from Denmark.

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    1. Walking the dog is a good one that I should have included. I think walking the dog is a great one because there’s a certain catharsis to dogs right now. They have no idea what’s going on, they’re just happy to be.
      I reckon that, as Denmark tries to ‘re-open’, essentially, more stresses will be coming in the coming days and weeks. I’m sending you lots of strength and positivity from Canada.

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  2. You’re definitely NOT alone in this!! Not at all. Keep breathing in deeply. Reminding yourself to take precautions and that it’s anxiety feeding your brain these thoughts. I pray you are able to keep the anxiety under control.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Gosh, you’re a brave soul. I’m so thankful for everyone who is still working right now. I honestly… I don’t know how we’d get by without it. Thank you for working during this crazy time in life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome. The struggle is real… For so many. I’m in healthcare (outpatient administrative) – while we have no patients in clinic, we are still going in. It was tough on my anxiety for a bit, but I am praying and believing and know all is well.

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  3. “I’m struggling to believe that I can step outside of the front door without catching corona virus.”

    I was going to say that it sounds like OCD levels of ‘contamination fear’, but you seem far from alone! There’s an OCD blogger I follow on here called Mark Wester, and he has loads of experience with suffering from contamination fears, even before this crisis. Perhaps his posts could be relatable or useful:
    https://over-coming-ocd.com

    You’ve now made me feel dangerously relaxed lol. I take all of the precautions of course, but I still find housemates 1 million times worse lol. Plus I’m convinced that my house is literally full of coronavirus from them.

    “The goal is to keep as many people as healthy as possible. The goal is not to ‘open the economy’.”

    It’s weird how much talk there is of lifting lockdowns now. I get discussing it hypothetically, but talking about doing it soon is a bit weird, given that we haven’t successfully managed to get people to lock down for a single day here, 😅.

    You’re doing a lot right in your list of points!

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  4. V, you are most definitely NOT alone in this!! I have been out twice since returning from Florida in the beginning of all of this and I feel the same way. The fear in the energy and atmosphere is palatable. Yesterday I forced myself to do a quick grocery run and it was heartbreaking for this social and loving soul to have people recoil from me. I had to really hold myself back from small talk and friendly conversation because the people I encountered weren’t down with it. I really hope and I do know that this too shall pass. We will return to not seeing each other as a threat. I feel it in my bones because humans are built for community, we can’t survive on our own.
    I think on your last post I shared with you what my partner is experiencing mental health wise. His family has allowed fear to overcome them, blame me and are forcing me to move in the midst of this chaos. After almost 7 years together they refuse to see how detrimental their behavior is to him. I will be ok no matter what but this time has shown me up close and personal how dangerous it is to make decisions out of fear. I am so glad you have Knight to talk to through stuff. That’s beautiful ❤

    I know in my heart that this isn’t what we should be doing to one another. You are doing enough. Take care of yourself my friend. All of this is normal considering where our world finds itself. So much love to you my dear🙏😊❤✌

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know how I’d handle being in the US right now. There’s nearly as much cases in Florida as there is in all of Canada. Honestly, the fact that you’re still sane means you’re doing a damn good job. I agree with you, though. As much as I consider myself an introvert, I also believe that as humans we’re meant for a community. We’re meant for having people in our circle. I just hope this passes quickly with minimal impact on our population.

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      1. Same!! It spreads like wildfires here because so many don’t take it seriously and there aren’t countrywide orders in place. I mean don’t even get me started with the complete idiot who runs the country now🙄 I know this is super challenging but I add also know we will be better for it😉

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  5. I know exactly what you mean! I am so paranoid if I have to go to the store nowadays, even when I am taking all the necessary precautions. Like you said, I know it’s not logical, but sometimes the brain seems to trick us into thinking the worst.
    What you said about others not wanting to get sick either is totally true – and that helps me too. I remind myself that none of us probably want to be there, and we are all literally just trying to get though this the best way that we can.
    And also nature – that’s been a saving grace for me, to be able to get outside away from people and enjoy the fresh air. I know I won’t catch covid-19 from a tree! ;P

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nature is a big bonus to have right about now. I can’t imagine what it would be like in the middle of New York City. Being able to go out and walk in the trees, feel the clean air, it’s definitely helpful.

      I’m sorry you’re struggling with anxiety. I know just how you feel. Sending you some love from a safe social distance ❤

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  6. It’s weird because I actually want to go out. Working from home is making me want to climb the walls so getting out is essentials for my sanity. Living in an highly populated area means constantly switching sidewalks and store aisles to avoid people. Having said that, my anxiety overall has gone through the roof and I’m constantly having to talk myself down from slipping over the edge. Bottom line, we are all reacting and coping in different ways. I think your personal pep talks are going to get you through this. 💕

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    1. That’s so true. Everyone reacts differently. It also must add so much stress being in such a populous area. There’s one thing about being in the middle of nowhere during a pandemic that’s positive… there’s a lot less people around.

      Sending you a socially distant hug.

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  7. Your definitely not alone in this. I am currently only going a brief radius around my community because my brain has be convinced that less people interact with my small community near my apartment and no cases have been confirmed in this immediate area so far (although logically I know that anyone can have it). Also, I was convinced I had it the other day and this morning. Any symptom of sickness and I almost want to tell my boss I must have coronavirus and I must stop working in my office (for the one day a week I have to be there). I have actually recently started writing and gratitude journaling which has helped to turn my anxiety/depression into a positive. I just set up a blog this weekend and I feel like it is helping me develop better coping skills. I do definitely agree with your points and am using many of them myself to keep grounded away from intense fear and into just being proactive.

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    1. A gratitude journal is such a great idea!

      I’m sorry that you’re struggling with those anxious ‘I’ve caught the virus’ feelings. They really are a difficult beast. I’m sending you lots of positivity from a social distance and I hope that you stay healthy and safe when you are going to work. ❤

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  8. Hey Vee!
    Yeah! Got to go the store once a week at least.
    I am coping with it by involving lots of mindful practices and hanging around the internet which tells good news…
    But, I do make sure what’s going on around.
    I get anxious too! During these time..alot!
    1) I am listening to soothing music.
    2) Trying to get in the balcony at least. Coz it feels good!
    3) Telling myself thousands of times that we are safe…
    4) Practicing EFT.

    And most of the time when the family tries to just talk about the pandemic on dining table and everywhere. …even on phone..
    Getting out of that vibe…

    Also, spreading kindness.. Donating money!
    Yesterday I had my birthday…
    Acts of kindness helps me in calming my heartbeats down..
    Very important!

    Doesn’t matter which coping strategies we use..we all are trying!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Happy Belated Birthday! I hope you had a nice birthday in quarantine. Thank you for your tips that help you stay calm, I’m definitely going to take up a couple of those.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Mines been through the roof, but not from the virus. I think having to slow down has caused some creepy crawlies to slither out of the dark corners of my brain……..so I guess inadvertently the virus is causing it………. I keep reminding myself life is anxiety provoking without a pandemic, so it’s beyond normal for heightened anxiety during one

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    1. Oh god, I think that’s a huge contributing factor. With so much time to think, it’s like anxiety thrives. Like it, in itself, is a virus that gets it’s chance to shine when you’ve got nothing else to do but stop and think. I completely know how you feel.

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with harsh anxiety. I’m sending you lots of positivty and good vibes.

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  10. Fear is an entirely understandable reaction to the pandemic, and caution is the rational response. So, in seeking to turn fear into caution, you’re doing exactly the right thing. All life is a risk; you can’t totally eliminate that risk, but you can seek to minimise it, and that’s what you’re doing. Seems to me you’re doing OK. Trust your uncle Platypus on this 🙂.

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  11. A few years ago, when my depression got really bad, I got anxiety too as a bonus. Weirdly, shopping in supermarkets was probably the biggest trigger. I’d become convinced that everyone was watching me and that I was walking funny. I’d become hyper-aware of my breathing and then not feel like I was breathing properly. So, I can kinda relate, even though depression is my primary mental health issue.

    It sounds like you’re doing everything sensible and logical. You’re super smart, so there’s nothing I can add here, unfortunately. For me, anxiety and depression are illnesses. Sometimes I’m less well, other times I feel better. And often there isn’t much rhyme or reason to it. When things get bad, I just have to grit my teeth, try to get through it and try to be kind to myself. And it helps to remember these things are only temporary.

    My heart goes out to you. I hope your anxiety eases soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dang, it sounds like you have some very similar experiences to me when it comes to going to the store. You’re right though, in times like this when it gets bad, it’s important to remember that things are only temporary. Thank you.

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  12. Ditto with the snow. It’s still snowing, and cold. Ditto with the anxiety. Whenever I go anywhere I sit around in the parking lot mentally reviewing how desperately I need to eat in the future. And when I finally do my brain screams at me to FOR THE LOVE OF GOD RUN. Any chance I could borrow Knight for some pep talks? They sound helpful.

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  13. You’re not alone in this! I guess as millennials we have never lived something like this before… It feels so akward to be scared of going out from your house, even just to walk my dog… Luckily enough, this won’t last for ever!!! Patience and precaution is all we need now… Can we buy it at the store? 😂 Greetings from Argentina! ✨🙏🏼

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  14. I’ve had major anxiety around going out in public – so much so that up until Sunday last week I hadn’t left my house in over a month. My husband dragged me out for a walk at the weekend and it was really nice to get some fresh air, but the anxiety I felt when we saw other people was horrendous, and I REALLY had to fight the urge to change my clothes when I got home for fear that someone would have breathed the virus onto me. Obviously I knew it was completely irrational, so I did my best to stick to the plan of getting on with the rest of my day.

    It’s good that you’re taking steps to cope like forcing yourself to go to the store and to go out for exercise – it’s so important to give yourself credit for it too! I feel for you and you are most definitely not alone right now. Lots of love to you and stay safe x

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  15. Very few (if any) people alive have lived through something like this. I’ve been told by older colleagues that the closest was the polio epidemic in the early 1950s. I have been self isolating as much as possible because I look after my elderly Mum and wouldn’t want to give her any infections. I’ve been getting our shopping delivered which costs a bit (around $15) but with a big order it’s free. I totally understand the anxiety of shopping at the moment.

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