Anxiety During COVID-19

Relationships are key to helping one another during a crisis.

Posted May 10, 2020

Anxiety as a result of COVID-19 is quite prevalent. This anxiety is a result of the dangers to one’s health, a relative’s, or a friend’s health. In addition, the economic dislocation affects too many of us: we may survive, but will we be able to sustain ourselves financially?

How can we help one another and help our children? In a previous post, I discussed ways to help our children (How Parents Can Help Their Children During the Pandemic: Stop, Look, and Listen). In this post, I highlight ways that adults can help one another.

Relationships are key to helping one another during a crisis

Twelve suggestions to help one another master their anxious feelings

  1. First and foremost, listen. When someone is anxious and wants to share, they are looking for a listening ear. Listening to someone else can often be very beneficial to one’s own sense of mastery.
  2. Do not minimize your partner’s, friend’s, or relative’s anxiety. Do not say something like, "There is nothing to worry about."
  3. If your partner/friend/relative is ruminating about the pandemic and/or the quarantine allow him/her to voice the nature of his/her fear: his/her own illness, a relative’s illness, death, anger at authorities.
  4. Ask your partner/friend/relative if he/she is aware what aspect of the situation triggered the anxiety or panic right now. For example, was there a particular event that occurred?
  5. If there is a particular event, one can discuss with your partner/friend/relative his or her emotion/s regarding that event. 
  6. If there is no particular event, recommend to your partner/friend/relative that it is best to accept the feeling for what it is, and try to avoid the rumination trap. Acceptance of one’s emotions is very helpful.
  7. Discuss with your partner/friend/relative how his/her anxiety decreased or stopped in the past. Whether help has been some physical event, like slow breathing, sipping milk, tea, or some reappraisal of his/her perspective.
  8. Help your partner/friend/relative reflect on the events/people that intensify the anxiety. Can he/she think of a different approach? For example, reinforce his/her own judgment about the best way to approach future plans: positive aspects, how to deal with negative events, with whom to partner, etc.
  9. Most importantly, don’t promote your partner/friend/relative to suppress his/her negative emotion, such as anger. That is very unhealthy in the long run. Again, acceptance of one’s emotion is very important.
  10. Promote using mature defense mechanisms such as humor, becoming involved in a task or a project, promoting one’s own creativity, helping other people (altruism).
  11. Promote relationships with compatible people, whether in person, or long distance. We are social animals and need connections with one another.
  12. If need be, recommending a professional might be useful.