My Pandemic Panic & Overcoming Covid Anxiety

4 minute read

New York City has broken out in a pandemic, the likes of which horror movies have warned us about.  The Big Apple is locked down, no one can go in or out. There isn’t enough equipment, staff, or space to care for all the sick. There isn’t even enough room for the dead. I watched the coronavirus tracker map by John Hopkins University adding more red circles to the nation and the world every day- representations of more sickness and death. I watched the numbers ticking up on the news not just daily, but hourly. 

Was I going to let the fear of Covid make me as sick as Covid itself?

  Flashback to the past: My daughter’s lung collapsed when she was a toddler. After a long hospitalization, we went through years of asthma and immunity issues.  I feel like I barely survived those years: I had my share of breakdowns and difficulties during that time. I thank God that she survived and is alive today.  We survived together. Put those memories with daily and hourly threats to relive the health struggle with Covid and I entered freak out mode.  I fought hard to keep my baby alive and would fight again, but it was so hard. It was like swimming against a current of mud.

I panicked myself into being physically ill.

I imagined doing it again with a disease with no cure, no treatment, and no known anything. I wiped down all cabinet handles, light switches, and doorknobs as often as I could. I spent over sixty dollars special ordering hand sanitizer because stores were sold out. I started checking our temperatures daily.  I thought so much about Covid’s symptoms that I gave myself the symptoms. My stomach, head, and whole-body hurt terribly one day. I called in sick to work. I sent my coworkers a Facebook video message describing my symptoms. I was sad that I may have also given them this deadly disease. Tests weren’t available yet to know for sure. I laid in bed imagining that I had given the Covid-19 virus to my only child.

I gave myself a full day and a half of being sick before realizing that I was going to be ok.  The aches weren’t too bad and I didn’t have any of the main symptoms like fever, difficulty breathing, or diarrhea. It only took me a few days to realize that I panicked myself into being physically ill. Stress can actually create headaches, nausea, fatigue, inflammation, and other real physiological responses. I had to make a choice: Was I going to let the fear of Covid make me as sick as Covid itself?

It is a pandemic. I will live in it. I will not let it control me. ”

I had to tune out the news, ignore the countdowns, and cut down on my intake of fear-inducing information and conversation. I love the motto “It is was it is”. Here are some “it is what it is” mantras for the pandemic: It is a pandemic. I will live in it. I will not let it control me.  I will not let the fear of Covid stop me from living my best life now.  I still had fear and anxiety after practicing these mantras and cutting back on the news, but I couldn’t be paralyzed another day. It’s like that for all stressors- daily stressors of bills and work, health issue stressors, relationship stressors- they can paralyze us. It wasn’t the first time and unfortunately, may not be the last time I get sick with stress. 

It’s hard to find a balance between fighting against stressors and totally giving up. Sometimes fight or flight anxiety responses can lead to no flight, no fight, nothing, full surrender. Totally giving up isn’t the answer either though. I continued to get information in moderation, keep a clean home, wash my hands, and wear a mask as appropriate without obsessing over the what-ifs (what if it’s not clean enough, what if I get Covid…). I find trying to stay between those extremes is best, the moderation of doing what I can without letting it totally overwhelm and consume me. Living with anxiety is hard. Living with anxiety during a pandemic is harder, but balance is possible. 

Horror movies are made to give the viewer a constant adrenaline rush through fear. This pandemic isn’t a horror movie, it doesn’t have to be. We don’t have to live in fear. It’s not good for us. It’s not a sustainable or healthy mindset. We can still live good lives. We deserve to live good, enjoyable lives with or without a pandemic. It is what it is and we can make the most of it.

 Images by Calvin Richi and Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

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