Dealing With Anxiety During Challenging Times
Anne Markowitz, L.C.S.W., is a consultant for Barrier Free Living providing workshops around the topic of anger. She shares a few tips about dealing with anxiety during this challenging period.
We are going to be in this Coronavirus crisis for some time, and no one knows for how long. We are all used to crisis work—(at Barrier Free Living’s programs for survivors of domestic violence with disabilities it’s the nature of the mission) —but this is different. So how do we manage the anxiety and instability of the next few weeks or months?
Accept that we will be learning as we go, so we have to be flexible. The rules that worked Monday don’t work by Friday. Explain this to other staff and to our clients. We have to go with it and constantly re-evaluate.
What does this mean day to day?
It’s helpful to let everyone know that things are changing all the time. For example, if Barrier Free Living changes the rules on staff or residents without preparation, feelings come up. But if the agency makes a statement to everyone, “We are all winging it here. We have to be able to change our plans as things around us change. Let’s focus on what to do now and keep re-evaluating. The more flexible we are, the more we can bend with the changes.”
Also, things are not fair. Things are never really fair, actually, but many people are feeling that there is little justice in what is happening or how some people seem to be having an easier time.
At Barrier Free Living’s programs, this can potentially lead to comparing among staff and residents. Some staff may feel that they are taking the brunt of the consequences of the Coronavirus, while other staff are less exposed or spending less time on site. It’s much better to anticipate this feeling of injustice by preparing staff, whether you’re a manager or a colleague, for the appearance that this is true. Discuss what can be done. Sometimes we have to suck things up during a crisis, but even that has to be acknowledged.
With residents, it may be helpful to emphasize that we are all figuring out what we can and can’t control. Discuss what can’t happen and focus on what to do instead.
With residents and clients at Barrier Free Living programs, there can be so much focus on the virus that many people have lost sight of the day to day. Acknowledge that there is nothing anyone can do about dealing with agencies, court, check-ups, school, quarantine. Try to focus on what people CAN control. If you can’t exercise outside today, exercise to a video on line. Have the kids do it with you. There are all kinds of free exercise and yoga things on line. What about creative projects people can do in their apartments? On line classes for adults? Cleaning out a closet? Teaching the kids how to mop?
If you are doing clinical work of any kind and are frustrated about your work with clients, adapt to the new timing. Instead of hour-long sessions, talk to the client about doing three 20-minute sessions a week. Instead of focusing on the virus’s effects, have an agenda, something you want to talk about, with the client you’re calling. It’s also a great time for social workers to do real therapy—go back to childhood and look at what formed the client’s way of seeing the world; look at patterns of behavior he or she wants to change.
ENJOY THIS TIME
Some people are ashamed to admit it, but some of this is enjoyable, and it’s certainly exciting. As destructive as the Coronavirus is, as much as it will devastate many people, crises are more exciting than the usual day to day, and it’s okay for people to feel that.
I thought that people would become much more anxious during this period. In fact, I’ve found that many people are LESS anxious, because they feel they have had a whole list of pressures taken away. They can’t find a job right now, they can’t do all the errands they meant to do, they can’t go to the dentist. I wouldn’t be surprised if many people are more anxious and depressed when this period is over and the city opens up again. So let’s try to exploit this time and use it well.
And MUSIC helps everything. You can sing with a mask on.
Hang in there. This, too, shall pass. We live in interesting times!
Love to you, and be kind to each other,