The COVID-19 pandemic has created a “new” normal around the world. Here, in Monroe County, children are out of the classrooms, some individuals are without employment, sport seasons have been cancelled and social distancing and isolation both continue to take place. Routines for everyone have changed.

Samantha Walker is the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner at Chota Community Health Services and she understands that the unexpected changes in routine often result in anxiety. In an effort to help the community cope with this anxiety, she has outlined multiple tips for controlling anxiety during a pandemic.

The first step in combating anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic is to be mindful of the things that are within our control and the things that are not. Things that are within our control include: our daily routine, self-care and personally following the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Things that are not within our control are the actions of others. By focusing on the things we can control, it will best help our mind and decrease our anxiety.

The second step in combating anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic is to create what Walker calls a Pandemic Plan.

The first step in creating a Pandemic Plan is to outline weekly and daily goals. Start each week by writing out a list of things you would like to accomplish during the week and then break these goals down day by day. Here is an example of a five-day pandemic plan:

  • Monday: Plant a flower;
  • Tuesday: Cook a new recipe;
  • Wednesday: Clean out a closet;
  • Thursday: Start a journal;
  • Friday: Listen to new music.

In addition to these daily goals, Walker also encourages implementing regular exercise, a healthy diet, and a regular sleep schedule of at least approximately eight hours each night. Exercise, a healthy diet, and regular sleep are all ways to decrease anxiety and improve mood.

Walker does not go without mentioning the importance of gratitude. She explains that this is great practice to implement now and always as a way to focus on positivity and decrease anxiety. To get started, she suggests using a notebook, piece of paper, white board or the notebook app on your phone to record one thing you are grateful for each day. Periodically, reflect on the many things you have to be grateful for.

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