If you’re struggling with anxiety about COVID-19, you’re not alone.
“Many of my patients describe feeling anxiety during this difficult
Valerie Lipetz, MD, during a free online health lecture. "I will share strategies to
help build mental resilience and nurture your emotional health and well-being
as we continue to wrestle with living through a pandemic.”
Watch Dr. Lipetz’s online lecture on "How to Build Resilience During the Pandemic."
Developing Mental Resilience
Dr. Lipetz stated that with everything going on, people can find themselves
feeling hopeless, helpless or with low mood. Those who already struggle
with anxiety may find the uncertainty of the pandemic exacerbates their
feelings. Others who are used to keeping busy may suddenly find themselves
alone with their thoughts more, and missing friends and family outside
of their household.
She said mental resilience is our ability to adapt to life’s challenges
and setbacks. It won’t make issues disappear, but it can help you
see past them, enjoy life more and handle stress better.
“Acknowledging your feelings is a first step to building resilience.
Do you feel anxious about the pandemic? Angry? Fearful? Sad? Research
shows the simple act of naming our emotions and accepting them rather
than fighting them away has been found to benefit well-being and is often
the quickest way to feel immediately calmer,” said Dr. Lipetz.
Symptoms of Anxiety and Stress
“It’s important to understand that you cannot control anxiety
from occurring – this is your brain’s automatic survival mechanism,”
explained Dr. Lipetz. Anxiety is experienced physically. “You may
feel your heart racing or your palms sweating,” said Dr. Lipetz.
Anxiety can occur on its own or as a reaction to stress. Autostress occurs
when your body’s response to stress continues for an extended period.
Chest tightness—feeling like you can’t breathe
- Heart palpitations
Muscle tension—aches and pains
- Difficulty sleeping
inability to relax
- Digestive issues
Managing Unhealthy Thinking Patterns
Dr. Lipetz listed five unhealthy thinking patterns that occur when we fixate
on a threat, uncertainty and negativity, all which can cause anxiety.
She provided examples of how people are experiencing these unhealthy thinking
patterns during the pandemic:
Threat Scanning. Is exactly that. You may be frequently checking yourself for COVID-19.
Catastrophizing. Your mind jumps to a worst-case scenario. You may feel you’re going
to lose everyone to the pandemic.
Hypothetical Worry. The feeling of “what if;” what if I get too close to someone
and catch the virus? While these things may be possible, it’s unhelpful
to worry about them continuously.
Emotional Reasoning. When your mind tells you that your emotions reflect reality. For example,
you feel lonely, so you think no one cares about you.
Fortune Telling. This is when your mind negatively interprets predictions as facts. If you
take a COVID-19 test you assume it will be positive.
Dr. Lipetz shared how thought challenging is a simple yet powerful cognitive
behavioral therapy (CBT) technique for reducing anxiety and a great tool
for managing unhealthy thinking patterns. As mentioned, anxiety is best
described as the unhelpful thinking patterns you experience when your
mind fixates on threat, uncertainty and negativity. Thought challenging
helps by broadening your focus to include the bigger picture.
"ABCDE Thought Challenging" is one technique you can experiment with:
Attention – When you feel distressed, stop what you’re doing
and pay attention to your inner dialogue. What is your mind telling you?
Believe – Do not automatically believe your thoughts!
Challenge – Defuse anxiety by broadening your focus. What’s
the bigger picture? Is the thought fact or opinion? What might you think
if you were feeling calmer?
Discount – Acknowledge that anxiety has been dominating your thinking
and let the unhelpful thoughts go.
Explore options – What would be helpful to focus on right now? What
options do I have available?
Other Tips to for Reducing Anxiety During the Pandemic
Dr. Lipetz provided numerous other ideas for reducing anxiety, including
examples of distractions, exercise, socializing options accessible during
the pandemic and how to start a daily breathing practice. Those tips included:
Signing up for BCH’s myStrength.com. This interactive tool helps you improve your mood and overcome challenges.
The access code is
Taking control of your media diet. Anxiety is easily fueled by consuming this kind of information. Consider
how often and what media sources you’re following. Follow trusted
sources and tune in only once a day.
Considering what’s in your control. If you’re prone to hypothetical worry (i.e., the ‘what if?’
thoughts), you may find it helpful to practice noticing these thoughts
and then redirecting your attention to things within your control such
as eating well, exercising and limiting media exposure. Research shows
that when we shift our focus to what we can control, we see meaningful
and lasting differences in our wellbeing, health and performance.
Practicing mind body medicine techniques. Browse meditations found on bch.org/mindbody under
Mind Body Meditation.
Maintaining structure helps build resilience and enables you to adapt to challenges. If your
normal activities are currently unavailable, Dr. Lipetz recommends creating
a daily “to do” list, developing weekly goals, focusing on
breathing, organizing your workspace, sticking to a regular sleep schedule
and committing to an end-of-the-day ritual (that doesn’t include alcohol).
Downloading the Corona Virus Anxiety Workbook, available through the Wellness Society website.
Dr. Valerie Lipetz is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She has been
practicing locally since 1991 and is a lifetime Boulder resident. To schedule
an appointment, call
Please click here to view/download slides from her lecture on how to build reilience during the pandemic.
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