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5 Ways To Handle Anxiety About Loved Ones Getting COVID-19

By John Daum
April 6, 2020

I’ve never felt so fragile. When my kids were younger and we were driving somewhere, we would point to places we passed and say, “That would be a great place to hold up if there was a zombie apocalypse!” I always (idealistically) pictured myself as a strong “apocalypse” survivor-type. Now, I’m in something that feels apocalyptic and I’m not so sure. I’m scared.

In no particular order, every day at some point, I find myself worrying about:

  • Am I going to get COVID-19?
  • Will I be able to weather this financial storm?
  • Am I hurting my son’s education by not being “on top of it”?
  • Am I leading my family well? Being a good husband? Father?

But by far, my biggest anxiety is about loved ones getting COVID-19. I fear that someone I care about is going to get sick, or worse.

Consider the following:

  • My wife is in the medical field. No social-distancing for her.
  • My at-risk, elderly mother-in-law lives with us.
  • Our daughter is in another state that is under “Shelter-in-Place” law.
  • Two of our sons work at a restaurant that is still open for takeout.
  • Our other son just informed me that his friend’s little sister, down the street, is being tested for COVID-19.
  • My extended family is all in a state far more devastated by COVID-19.

This isn’t even taking into account my many friends that are working on the “front lines” of the medical field, counseling profession and parts of the police force. Plenty of worries to keep my mind busy and distractible and exhausted. I know that many of you are dealing with the same things. 

Worry, Anxiety, Fear, Insecurity, Nervousness… whatever you want to call it, it takes a toll on you. It’ll flip you for real.

[This is the place where I’m supposed to give you the dictionary definition of “worry” and maybe go on to provide you with research about how anxiety affects your health and maybe even encourage you to talk to a counselor if it gets really bad. I could do that.]

Here’s how I try to deal with it…

  • I have a grid of principles that I run my worry through:
    • Is this worry about something that I can’t control, can control, or maybe influence?
    • Is this worry masking a deeper issue that I need to address?
    • How am I going to choose to respond to this worry, not react?
  • I know that my mind and body are connected. Am I practicing good self-care? Getting enough sleep and exercise? Eating right and getting enough water? Am I controlling my breathing?
  • My environment influences my state of mind. I’m working from home now, so I listen to relaxing music or soothing white noise. I set up my “work station” near a big window to let the sun in or by my television playing long YouTube videos of relaxing campfires, trickling streams, or colorful aquariums.
  • I try to be informed while not allowing a steady stream of panic-inducing “noise” into my head via news and social media. It’s a balancing act. I try to only go to the CDC website and check the news no more than once a day because I want to be informed by accurate information but not conformed by the fear-mongering clickbait. 
  • I put anxious energy to use! Family Movie Night and Family Game Night help us all stay connected. We try to do chores together and make them fun. Instead of calling or texting friends and family like I normally would, I use an app like FaceTime or Google Meet so I can actually see them and see how they are doing.

Camping out in feelings of anxiety, worry, and fear about loved ones getting COVID doesn’t do anybody any good. It doesn’t help you and it certainly doesn’t help them. You may not be able to control the thoughts and feelings that “pop” into your head, BUT you can control what you do with them!

Image from Unsplash.com

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