In recent days, the media has been flooded with the news of omicron – a new coronavirus variant, which the World Health Organization called “a variant of concern." We know little about the omicron and it will take time before we have a clear answers.
So far, I’ve observed two main responses: resignation and anxiety. Those who are feeling resigned are exhausted by the constant threat and uncertainty that has loomed globally for almost two years now. But others are feeling triggered and anxious about the prospect of reliving the lockdown days of 2020.
If you are feeling anxious, here are several tips that may help:
Focus on what you can control. Follow the recommendations and restrictions. They are in place to help us and the people around us stay safe. Peace of mind comes with knowing that we are doing everything we can to stay safe. We cannot control everything, but there are things we can control – washing our hands, wearing masks in certain settings, getting vaccinated, socially distance, etc. This list may vary depending on where you are located.
Stay informed. The human mind struggles with the unknown. Facts can help lessen the discomfort you feel, as well as keep you updated on the latest precautions. It can offer us relief knowing that we are staying mindful and proactive about our safety. Talking to individuals who are uninformed but love to panic (we all know at least one person like this) can lead us to internalize some of their fear if we are unaware of the facts.
Don’t get sucked into the media whole. This may sound like a contradiction to the point above, but it’s not. It’s good to be informed but not consumed by the news. If your feeds get saturated with COVID news, it may be time to log off or mute accounts. It’s important to monitor how many triggers we want to expose ourselves to. Reading one or two articles a day is probably plenty.
Set boundaries around the conversations you are having. I’ve noticed in the last couple days that regardless of the initial topic of conversation, talk of COVID inevitably takes over. I think it’s important to set boundaries for how much we want to discuss the pandemic. I am not suggesting that you avoid important conversations, but anxiety can grow when information is lacking and all we are exchanging is worst-case scenarios. Be intentional about who you want to talk to, for how long and for what purpose. We can internalize other people’s anxiety without even noticing it.
Remember to ground. Life can get overwhelming. In those moments, it’s important to validate the way we are feeling and practice grounding. This can involve taking several deep belly breaths, moving our bodies or taking a shower. It’s important to do the things that help us return to the present moment and allow us to experience ourselves fully.
Get professional support. It’s not easy living through a pandemic. With potential new threats and regulations remerging, it’s OK to want a bit of extra support. Seeing a therapist about our anxieties may be a helpful next step. We all have problems that are being compounded by the pandemic; it’s OK to not always be OK.
We can’t live in survival mode indefinitely without our mental health suffering. So being aware of how the pandemic is impacting us is really important – it gives us an awareness that helps us meet our needs.
Sara Kuburic is a therapist who specializes in identity, relationships and moral trauma. Every week she shares her advice with our readers. Find her on Instagram @millennial.therapist. She can be reached at SKuburic@gannett.com.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Omicron COVID variant causes anxiety. 6 tips to help you cope