Ways to Cope with Anxiety During COVID with Psychologist Dr. Cassidy Liland

Dr. Cassidy Liland With Her Child

The global pandemic has presented a slew of mental health challenges to people everywhere. Everyone is experiencing the effects of Covid-19 in a unique way. Whether you’re ill, you’ve lost a loved one to coronavirus, you’ve lost a job, or are struggling with the fear of how the coronavirus will affect you, anxiety is a common experience.

This week, we spoke to licensed psychologist Dr. Cassidy Liland to get her solutions for coping with anxiety during the coronavirus. Cassidy works for Women’s Mental Wellness clinic in Texas where she specializes in individual therapy for women — specifically in perinatal mental health.

Dr. Liland offers tips to help people connect, cope with the unknown, and reduce anxiety during Covid-19.

Identify the Problem

“The core issue,” Cassidy says, “is that, right now, everyone is operating with this baseline fear. There’s so much uncertainty — and that’s making it really hard for people to cope.”

Before we can offer a solution, it’s helpful to identify the thing that is making it hard for people to cope. Covid-19 creates a lot of uncertainty. In the time of coronavirus, there is no official end date or certainties. We’re not sure when there will be a vaccine, we’re not sure when stay-at-home orders will truly end, and we’re not sure that, when everyone does end, if things will return to normal.

This sort of uncertainty — in job security, health, and economy — is really difficult to manage. “However, there are tools” Dr. Liland says, “that people can use to help them take back control and manage day-to-day.”

Give Yourself Space to Grieve

Regardless of how your pandemic has looked, everyone has lost something — whether that’s a friend or an expectation. New mothers specifically have lost the entirety of what their birth story looks like. Dr. Liland offers that, by giving yourself time and space to grieve and to feel the depth of those emotions, you offer yourself a way forward.

“This is such a complicated time. Allow yourself the space to feel those emotions.”

Dr. Liland

Complicated times result in complicated emotions, and the only way out of those emotions is by feeling them. Rather than suppressing your feelings, give yourself permission to truly identify and feel them.

Establish a Routine

In a time where we feel at a loss to control our situation, it’s helpful to assert control where we have it (in a healthy way). Dr. Liland says to make a checklist every day — and to hold yourself accountable. Include things that feel obvious, like sleep, workout, and face timing loved ones. Consistency is key during these inconsistent times.

Do Something Daily that Offers a Sense of Achievement

One of the hard things about the stay-at-home order is that many of the things that bring us joy day-to-day (seeing friends, hobbies, eating out) are no longer available to us. Dr. Liland says that its imperative to do something every day that offers us a sense of achievement or brings us pleasure.

You might try something new like quilting or gardening, or you might return to an old passion like reading. Either way, find something that makes you feel good about yourself and something that you enjoy.

Stay Physically Active

Physical activity (preferably outside) is really important right now. Physical activity is something that makes people feel good about themselves and helps to establish a routine, but it’s also good for other reasons.

Dr. Liland says, “Even a 12-minute walk gets those stress-busting endorphins moving. It doesn’t have to be intense to help tremendously with your stress hormones.” Whether you’re running, walking, biking, or doing yoga, being physically active is going to help you feel alert, happy, and stress-free.

Get Outdoors

Cassidy Liland Outdoors - Coping With Anxiety During COVID

“There’s a lot of research that proves that nature benefits us emotionally and mentally. We really just need that sunlight.”

Dr. Liland

Stay-at-home orders mean that we’re spending an unprecedented amount of time inside. While there are benefits to this, it’s important to get outside at least once a day — preferably in the sunlight — to get some fresh air. Go on a walk, take a bike ride, sunbathe in your backyard, read in an approved park…whatever you do, just get outside!

Gardening is highly recommended as a social distancing activity because it allows you to get outside without increasing yours and anyone else’s risk of getting Covid-19. Besides, gardening is a satisfying experience that often makes you happier.

Sleep Well

Taking care of your general health like getting enough sleep is very helpful for improving your mental health. Sleep is particularly important, because it gives our brain (which might be overactive during this time) rest. The more we are able to rest, the better we are able to cope.

Connect with Others

Although connecting with people looks different than we are used to, we are still able to connect! Our social needs are as important as our physical needs. Dr. Liland says, “It looks different for everyone, but be sure to connect with the people you love every single day — whether that’s virtually or through approved social distancing practices.”

Connection makes us happy and offers us fulfillment in a way that only other people can. If you’re quarantining with people, mindfully connect with them. If you’re not, FaceTime the ones you love! Any connection will help take you out of slumps or periods of stress.

Engage in Mindfulness

A key to coping with anxiety is to participate in grounding tactics. Mindful practices are ways that we can step out of our own stress and come into the now. Some of the things that Dr. Liland recommends is meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, and journaling.

Top of her list of effective mindfulness tools is visualization. “Visualization is a really powerful tool,” Dr. Liland says. People are projecting themselves into the future — often creating anxiety by imagining the worst-case scenario. This visualization creates a physiological response and is what produces panic attacks and anxiety symptoms.

“You can do the reverse for yourself and create a positive physiological response by transporting yourself to the happiest place.” Dr. Liland says. Visualize the beach, your bedroom, your backyard, and focus on what you see, what you smell, and what’s going on. It’s a tool for calming your body and mind that is often effective for newcomers to mindfulness.

Here are 6 steps to beginning your meditation practice.

Whatever tactics you employ to help yourself cope with anxiety, know that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. In our opinion, natural remedies are always worth a try. Check out these 7 natural remedies for anxiety.

While these tips are intended to help you cope with stress, it’s not a replacement for a relationship with a trusted doctor. Contact your doctor if you are experiencing anxiety, depression, or any other mental health challenges.

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