With COVID-19 restrictions lessening here in North Carolina, you may find yourself back in social situations. You may be expected to come back into the office instead of working from home. Your classes may be meeting in person again and not on Zoom. You may be having to interact with your child’s teacher in the drop off line. Your friends plan a dinner date at a restaurant to catch up after being in quarantine. You are presented with the opportunity to enter back into the world of socializing face-to-face.
After reading that paragraph, your heart rate may have increased, you may have started to feel nauseous, or you might have overwhelming thoughts of worry (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). In other words, you may be feeling anxious about re-entry.
Kevin Chapman is a licensed clinical psychologist, founder and director of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (KY-CARDS). Chapman has developed a useful acronym, FIGHT, to help cope with anxiety surrounding re-entry (Chapman, 2020).
F - Focus on what you can control.
Anxiety can cause us to feel on edge that can leave us feeling fatigued (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). By focusing on what we can control we keep ourselves from wasting our time and energy on worrying about the things we can’t change.
I - Identify negative thoughts.
It is hard to not have negative thoughts surrounding COVID-19 when we are constantly seeing information and statistics about it. We know that negative thoughts can trigger feeling anxious (Tuckwiller & Dardick, 2018). By identifying our negative thoughts, we can use skills to combat those thoughts.
G- Generate alternative thoughts.
One way to combat our negative thoughts, is replacing it with an alternative thought (Beck, 2011). These alternative thoughts do not have to be positive or optimistic, but realistic. For example, “If I go out to eat at a restaurant I am definitely going to get COVID-19” can be replaced with, “there is a chance that I will get COVID-19 by going out to a restaurant, but I can wear my mask, eat outdoors, and only go with people I have already spent time with to reduce the risk.”
H - Highlighting adaptive behaviors.
The first step to highlighting adaptive behaviors is to research adaptive behaviors. The CDC guidelines that tell you ways to lower your risk while out in public would be a good place to start. This helps you focus on the things you can control. Other adaptive behaviors to reduce your anxiety could include taking media breaks, meditating, or getting plenty of sleep (CDC, 2020).
T - Teach somebody else to do the exact same thing.
If there is anything COVID-19 has taught us, it’s that connection and community are so important during a collective event. COIVD-19 has affected everyone in some way, whether you or a loved one has had the virus, you were forced to work from home, or you have had your kids at home with you for an extended amount of time. You are not alone in this and there are others who are also feeling anxious. By sharing the information you have learned in this post, you may be able to help someone else with their anxiety as we continue to re-enter into the public.
Angel Archer, MSW Intern
Other resources for additional information on and services for anxiety and COVID-19
How to Protect Yourself & Others: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html
Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish), or text TalkWithUs for English or Hablanos for Spanish to 66746. Spanish speakers from Puerto Rico can text Hablanos to 1-787-339-2663.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English and 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) and TTY 1-800-487-4889.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author.
Chapman, K. (2020, April 7th). Academic Interview [Published Interview]. https://www.centre.edu/kevin-chapman-00-advises-everyone-to-fight-covid/
Tuckwiller, B., & Dardick, W. (2018). Mindset, Grit, Optimism, Pessimism, and Life Satisfaction in University Students With and Without Anxiety and/or Depression:. Journal Of Interdisciplinary Studies In Education, 6(2), 32-48. Retrieved from https://isejournal.org/index.php/jise/article/view/205
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2020). The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html