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by Aarti Gupta, PsyD
Aarti Gupta COVID-19 Lockdown

Since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, many of us, even those who have not been infected by the virus, will choose to quarantine in our homes for the upcoming weeks. Capsized travel plans, indefinite isolation, panic over scarce re-sources and information overload could be a recipe for unchecked anxiety and feelings of isolation. Here are a few pointers that could help you survive spiraling negative thoughts about this uncertain time.

1.) Reframe “I am stuck inside” to “I can finally focus on my home and myself”

As dismal as the world may feel right now, think of the mandated work-from-home policy as an opportunity to refocus your attention from the external to the internal. Doing one productive thing per day can lead to a more positive attitude. Set your sights on long-avoided tasks, reorganize, or create something you’ve always wanted to. Approaching this time with a mindset of feeling trapped or stuck will only stress you out more. This is your chance to slow down and focus on yourself.

2.) Stay close to your normal routine

Try and maintain some semblance of structure from the pre-quarantine days. For those individuals with children, sticking to a routine might be easier; however as you work from home, it could be tempting to fall into a more lethargic lifestyle, which could lead to negative thinking. Wake up and go to bed around the same time, eat meals, shower, adapt your exercise regimen, and get out of your PJ’s. Do laundry on Sundays as usual. Not only will sticking to your normal routine keep you active and less likely to spiral, it will be easier to readjust to the outside world when it’s time to get back to work.

3.) Avoid obsessing over endless Coronavirus coverage

Freeing up your day from work or social obligations gives you plenty of time to obsess, and if you have a tendency to consult Google for every itch and sneeze, you may be over-researching the pandemic as well. Choosing only certain credible websites (who.int or cdc.gov is a good start) for a limited amount of time each day (perhaps two chunks of 30 minutes each) will be in your best interest during this time.

4.) A chaotic home can lead to a chaotic mind

With all the uncertainly happening outside your home, keep the inside organized, predictable and clean. Setting up mental zones for daily activities can be helpful to organize your day. For example, try not to eat in bed or work on the sofa- just as before, eat at the kitchen table and work at your desk. Loosening these boundaries just muddles your routine and can make the day feel very long. Additionally, a cluttered home can cause you to become uneasy and claustrophobic of your environment- so keep it tidy.

5.) Start a new quarantine ritual

With this newfound time, why not do something special during these quarantined days? For ex-ample, perhaps you can start a daily journal to jot down thoughts and feelings to reflect on later. Or take a walk every day at 4 pm, connect with your sister over FaceTime every morning, or start a watercolor painting which you can add to everyday. Having something special during this time will help you look forward to each new day.

6.) Use telehealth as an option to talk to a professional if your anxiety becomes unmanageable

Many licensed psychologists are offering telehealth options over HIPAA-compliant video chat platforms. Remember to reach out for help if your anxiety is reaching proportions that is unmanageable without professional help.

Letting go of illusions of control and finding peace in the fact that you are doing your part to “flatten the curve” will certainly build mental strength to combat the stressful situation the whole globe is experiencing.
 


About the Author

Dr. Aarti Gupta, PsyD is Founder and Clinical Director at TherapyNest, A Center for Anxiety and Family Therapy in Palo Alto, California. She specializes in evidence-based treatment for a wide spectrum of anxiety disorders, including OCD, panic disorder, social anxiety, trichotillomania, and generalized anxiety disorder. Dr. Gupta serves on ADAA's public education committee.

Three years ago an Afghani guy used me sexually and flee back to his country without even informing me. My anxiety issues began from there and I was depressed for very long then I started chatting with a guy online and told him about my issues, he consoled me and helped me to move on and I started developing feelings for him but after few months I found out that he was already married and had a baby also so I stopped talking to him and asked him to be friend. I was very grateful to him coz he has helped me alot during my tough times, we occasionally talk after (formal greetings) six months ago he came to my city and insisted to meet so I met him but he kissed me while going back and I again started catching feelings for him, we started talking, though he never called or texted me first but still I fell in love with him. I got stuck alone in a different city away from family and home due to Lockdown so I insisted him talking to me more as I was going through a very rough phase but he didn't respond which escaleted to our fights and eventually he blocked me and stopped responding to my texts. My anxiety issues have reserphased now. I am having a very difficult time alone and today through his social media I came to know that he become father of his second child. What should I do?

You do realize how unrealistic some of these strategies are when you have multiple kids home doing online learning right? Focus on my house? It’s all I can do to keep up with good and laundry right now.

Hi I’m a single mum Of two boys one with add living in a Lego block made by the council with no garden we are In most of the time but do manage to go for a walk some days when I’m able too, I am terrified about leaving my house most days and I’m not sleeping but I’m petrified of developing symptoms ( which I know sounds ridiculous), but I can’t control it every evening around 6 o’clock this feeling of impending doom starts and I have to distract my self with the kids just to settle myself enough to get them to sleep then I’m up all night worrying... sorry can u recommend anything

My parents are in an assisted living facility. They stay in the same room. This morning my father woke up with a fever, so they quarantined both of them to the room. My mother, who does not have fever, has claustrophobia. She has been having panic attacks (which she has never had) and emotional break downs. This is the last straw. I can't go in and help her so she called me on her cellhpone and appealed to me to talk to someone to open the door. I'm at a loss. Can you give me any suggestions?

Fortty five days are gone.Me and my husband are imprisoned in a 600 sq.feet flat.He is a doctor and I am a teacher. I am teaching on line. His chamber is closed. I have to take sedatives. I cannot cope up with this feeling that I have to do nothing, go nowhere after waking up every morning.,as if I am falling down a toatal vacuum. I used to read and write a lot. But now I can seldom concentrate. I cannot even bear to listen to my favourite songs and is caught up in a weeping spell. I can no longer stand it.

My daughter suffers from PTSD. She lives in UK. She cries and I feel helpless. Im old school and still believe in thinking yourself better. But it's this thinking that made my mom refuse meds and help with her anxiety. There no support structure in my mom time.

But my child 19 years old - will she be able to live a "normal"
Especially after COVID.
How does a person with PTSD cope with isolation and no income...

As our fights started increasing, my anxiety levels increased so much that i entered his personal space and didnt even give him time to think. He got so irritated and frustrated that the relation ended. A part of me thought that he will understand me as my anxiety only increased because i didnt want to loose him. Now my mind is so idle in this lockdown. I feel scared to be alone with nothing to do. I dont function normally, just feel like sitting in one place. I cant share this my parents. And i have a limited number of friends who are also busy in their lives. I am not able to let go of this person. He was my best friend also. We are in the same college and group. He has said that we will be friends if everything is ok. But after the relation ended i requested him to call and again he got irritated that i am still doing the same by coming into his space. I had no wrong intentions ever. But he is so frustrated that he fails to understand me now. And i am scared in this lockdown. I was coping my anxiety by being out and around people, i guess because at home it has increased. Do i need a therapist?

How about having a toxic family living in a small house with no personal space, loneliness, education requirements problems ( No desktop to comply the task ) everything bad is happenning to me rightnow I'm already crazy, im desperate to search up this type of topics

Been in isolation for a while! Haven't had anxiety in two years. But now will all this going o, being in isolation and losing my job. The anxiety began! Don't know how to distract myself.

What about when you are working at home and too busy to take a breath let alone organise, home school and spend valuable time with the family. Working from home blurs the lines making work and home life even more difficult to balance. There feels like there is no outlet to unwind as everything is under the same roof.

I have handled quarantine relatively well. I "go to work every day" as a telemed nurse-midwife, have maintained most routines. An introvert by nature, aside from close quarters with my family, I have found quarantine to be fairly comfortable.
Today, I met my mother for breakfast for the first time in four months at our favorite place, on an outdoor patio of a beautiful restaurant surrounded by lavender fields and gardens, a gentle breeze passing over my newly "naked" face. I smiled and breathed it all in, then felt an overwhelming sense of fear and panic and started to cry. I had not prepared myself for the possibility that coming out of quarantine, putting one toe back into the flow of life, would be so overwhelming. Having had a single experience like this today, I started to catastrophize- what will it be like when I go back to the office to see patients (likely not till flu season is over next Spring), being in a small exam room, taking all the time I need with a patient even though I am uncomfortably aware of aerosolization and the limitations of standard PPE.
I share these thoughts because I would love to see you or another contributor to ADAA write about the anxiety of preparing for and coming out of quarantine. I certainally had no idea how challenging that first time would be.

I worked in the hospitality industry all of my adult life. I was laid off in the beginning of April. My place of employment has yet to reopen and probably won't until September the earliest. I am still awaiting for unemployment to kick in. All of my bills are just getting bigger and bigger... I have 2 kids... One is 11 and has been out of school since the end of February and the other is a 7 year old who has inoperable brain tumors that leave him in a perpetual state of toddlerism. He is prone to severe silent seizures that have to be monitored closely. His neurologist has been out because of all of this for months. His oncologists are 150+ miles away and traveling just isn't as easy as it sounds. I have next to no money and no support system here. I feel like I'm completely alone. I'm a single mother who lost my only family in the past two years. No siblings and no close friends within the state I live. I keep smiling for my children's state of minds however I feel like I'm a scared child myself inside.

How do I keep going? I don't even know if I will be able to afford this phone service or gas for the car in the coming days.

I need help.

Hi, i need help i have anxiety and panic attacks in car it happen since im all day home because of the virus what can I do if im feeling always sick & nauseaus and now my ear is inflamed idk why

Words are empty! We were made to be with people. People are healthier together. Isolatalism forced by the government is more destructive than COVID. The number of ACE's kids is on the rise with trauma increasing. This will last a lifetime. Media and political fear-mongering fuels the fire. These destructive policies are hurtful and oppressive. We need to think in more than just one dimension when we think about health.

I don't like facetime or phones, so talking with friends is out. Keeping close to my usual routine of going out to work 12 hours each day on heavy equipment is also out. I can't go out for a walk due to the idiots out there not wearing masks. Can't go shopping due to being high risk. I like music and painting, but painting requires equipment that I can't access. Doing some reports for work keeps me busy for a couple of hours. Rest of the day spent listening to the radio, no way to avoid the stupid Covid updates on there. I know this is not going away and the restrictions on my freedom are making me wish I could end it. Can't go see my grandchildren because they closed the border to Canada. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, we don't even know how long the tunnel is

Your key points are amazingly magic. The lockdown has made feel worthless as it is really difficult to stay inside a house with a fear of deadly disease in mind. During the first days, I actually felt weird during the first weeks of lockdown but slowly I realized that I have enough time for myself that I was craving for. This is the best time to work on yourself guys. Being optimistic helps to tackle any obnoxious situation. Moreover, I really appreciate the people who are helping COVID 19 patients being real heroes.
Thanks!

Have several days of sleepless nights, I felt like I’m having a hard time breathing and also feeling suffocated.

I’m currently 15 and this quarantine is what I thought would be a great get away from school is now making me have anxiety attacks, my parents say it’s linked to lack of structure, meaning me sitting in a classroom helped me focus more, now in July, we got out in March. I’ve been getting anxiety looking or thinking about firearms, feeling not suicidal to say but having a gun around wouldn’t help my situation. I would go from being normal to then thinking about the consequences of suicide or a gun that I would breakdown and get a raised heartbeat and overall sense of fear that I would just say “Why is this happening? How can I stop it?” Please I need answers.

All you writing makes sense but will not work for people like me. I have isolated since March and now I am I'll. Not covid 19 but my mind. I panic when I think of winter and cannot bear any thought of further lockdown because somebody us have lost our minds being indoors and alone. Better than dying of Covid ....what a choice do you want to burn ir drown. No more lockdown for me ever. I am not suicidal I want to live, but not alone in a box

When this pandemic first came about I felt I was strong and had a good plan for being at home with family, garden, family time, working at home, and schooling the kids at home. We hardly do out and if I do go out it is either with the kids at the doctors, a quick run to the store with my husband and that is it. Recently, (This past weekend) I am feeling a sense of hopelessness. Everything I have listed about is beginning to feel overwhelming. Everyone and everything irritates me and I have this gnawing feeling in my stomach that won't go away. Do you have any suggestions?

Today I tried to help. Staying out of people’s way but they kept breaking social distancing for their needs. Then i saw a drunk man preying on old people for money. When i tried to make a report in worry for the people i know well in my community no one cared. I feel so broken down trying to adhere to rules and knowing we will be in lockdown again. But when I’m just happy to see other people. They are really really mean. Meaner and i am in everyone’s way. I don’t want to be on this planet any more. I went to get help they put me on antidet that make me put on a ton of weight so i lost confidence in the dr completely and stopped taking the meds. Being huge was not helping my anxiety and to have to go buy fat clothes and deal with more people again. I cant handle this planet any more. I was told to come look at this site and I’ve done these things and nothing worked

RIGHT NOW IT IS ALMOST 1AM AND I STAY UP TO 6AM. I SUFFER FROM PTSD AND NOW WITH COVID19 MY ANXIETY IS WORSE, I LOST MY MOM & DAD AND DOG AND I HAVE NO FAMILY AND NO FRIENDS HERE. I MOVED TO S.C. FROM N.J. BECAUSE I WAS IN A CAR ACCIDENT WITH A DEER AND BROKE MY NECK AND NOW LIVE ON DISABILITY. I AM OVERWHELMED FROM BEING ALONE, CANT GO OUT, I JUST ANT FUNCTION. I WAS IN THERAPY IN MY 20'S AND ALANON FOR 20 YEARS. I JUST HAVE NO ONE HERE AND I CANT AFFORD FOOD. I AM OVERWHELMED. THE THERAPIST I HAD CALLED DURING COVID AND BASICALLY TOLD ME SHE DIDNT THINK I COULD AFFORD $35 A SESSION. SHE NEVER GAME ME A CHANCE TO WORK OUT SEEING HER AND PAYING HER. I FELT ABANDONED. MY PTSD MAKES ME PANIC IF I TRY ANS SLEEP.

I moved out of my city because I cannot tolerate the rules of my house and it used to be suffocating here. Coming from an orthodox family, I cannot make my family understand what I am going through, I tried a lot though. I always felt like that at home but I became workoholic so that I get to spend more time in office and with people other than my family. Thats how I used to manage before. But because of this lockdown, I am stuck at my place now feeling more suffocated. I started working but it was virtual on-boarding so I am not able to learn much and I am not satisfied with my work at all. I feel like resigning but I can't because its my ticket to move out once this lockdown is lifted. And recently I realized I have vitamin deficiency and I am taking medication. I know that vitamin deficiency is not a major condition but taking supplements daily is very frustrating. I love my hair but there is so much hair fall that I have never seen my entire life. And I am gaining so much weight and my body feels heavy and I hate it. I started following diet and exercising but couldn't keep it because of my work load and timings. I cannot sleep till 4AM and I'll cry to seep without any reason. I don't like to talk with anyone on phone or texts and I can't talk also because of the rules here. I cannot meet anyone because of this lockdown. I don't feel like reading, watching series, drawing or working or anything. Its like everything I love are fading away. I just don't want to get up from my bed and just sleep untill this all ends and I can move out of my home and be free again!

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