How To Deal If Everyone's Coronavirus Anxiety Is Piling Onto Yours

Kate Mooney
(Hirurg via Getty Images)

A few weeks into the coronavirus pandemic, the rules for social distancing have been pretty clearly established: stay inside as much as you can, and if you must venture out for essential services, keep a safe distance of six feet between yourself and others.

Physically, we’ve never been more separated from each other. Yet ― thanks to Zoom, smartphones and the internet ― you might even find that you’re connecting with people more despite being remote. But as we support each other by staying in touch virtually, sharing links to the latest coronavirus updates and commiserating over our (often shared) anxieties, it’s not uncommon to get overwhelmed and crave a little emotional distance. 

“This increased social connection is amazing because it’s validating and distracting and often uplifting,” said Jenna L. Schleien, a psychologist practicing in Brooklyn. “However, spending a huge part of each day listening to others’ fear and anxiety can take a toll on our mental health.”

You don’t have to sacrifice your conversations to fix this. If you assess your own coping needs, then you can set boundaries with loved ones, communicate thoughtfully about each others’ limits, and learn to support each other in a way that’s healthy for all. Here’s how:

First, figure out what you need to stay sane 

Each day, there’s a lot to take in. Staying informed, healthy and productive amid a global crisis isn’t sustainable without coping techniques. It might sound trite, but before you can help someone else, you really do have to make sure you’re taking care of yourself first. 

Schleien suggested making it a habit to intentionally check on yourself throughout the day. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling?” If it’s not always obvious to you moment to moment, you can look for signs from your body: Is there a tightness in your chest? Are you clenching your jaw? Do you feel a general heaviness?

After practicing that self-awareness, the next step is to...

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