In these trying times, anxiety management is a must

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on many of us, and its ultimate path is unknown. However, anxiety can be dealt with. (photo by Brett Swain)

By Brett Swain |
Staff writer

As the quarantine continues month after month, anxiety continues to rise. The fear of the COVID-19 virus leaves people paranoid about everyday life.  Some people may be scared to go out into public areas. Some others may be scared to invite other people to their house. Some students and faculty members may be scared to go back to face-to-face instruction in the fall. 

Elizabeth McBurney, Columbia County assistant human resource manager and alumna of Augusta University, gave some ways she manages anxiety,

“In my experience, people can manage anxiety in a number of ways, such as: exercise, deep breathing, eating appropriately, i.e. healthy foods, seeking outside counseling if the situation is serious enough, and making sure they can articulate their concerns and address those concerns,” she said.

McBurney also talked about how to deal with fear with COVID-19.

“I have spoken to many people regarding their concerns over COVID-19 and have found a variety of fears,” she said. “My best advice to anyone that is frightened is to have them call their physician for guidance in their particular medical state. The reality is that everyone has a different circumstance and that is why I think it is best to seek medical direction. I think it is very important to get out; however, one has to be especially vigilant and careful to observe social distancing and hopefully mask protection.  People seem to do better if they can return to some sense of normalcy after being quarantined for a long time.”

According to the AU Counseling Services website: “Our highly trained and experienced staff is available to assist students with a variety of personal, developmental, and mental health concerns. We provide consultation, individual, couples, and group therapy, same-day walk-in crisis services, psychiatric services, and a range of prevention and outreach programming.”

Ron Hickerson, a member of AU’s Academic Advisement staff, gave his input on how students could manage anxiety.

“We have the student counseling center here on campus,” he said. “There is a lot of acute anxiety that students are feeling that they may have not felt before. It may be helpful to talk to a professional about it. There always going to be on campus. I think there will be a lot of opportunities for students to talk to people. When it comes to managing anxiety in general, I know for my personal experience it’s always been… you have to give yourself permission and the grace to realize its normal to feel anxious about something. It’s okay to feel anxious about something. We are living in a uncertain and scary times right now. More than just the corona virus. There’s plenty of things to be anxious about. One of the best places to start is just knowing that it is normal, that you’re not alone [or weird for feeling that way]. When you start there, another important thing is telling people you feel that way. Whether if it is with a professional, a friend, or family member. It opens the door for the other person to admit that there feeling the same way too.”

Hickerson went on saying that talking about anxiety with others opens the door for support. Hickerson also talked about ways he takes of himself by either exercise or rewarding himself with ice cream or some type of dessert to help him mange anxiety. He also mentioned podcasts and reiterated the counseling center on campus for students for free.

Hickerson also talked about the Fall semester and the fear about going back to face-to-face instruction.

“I say it is a normal feeling to feel anxious to go back to campus,” he said. “There is a lot of anxiety just about taking care of yourself. Usually when I leave for groceries, I wear a mask when I go out. I can feel anxious just by wearing a mask when I see people around me not wearing a mask. There’s a lot of different levels of anxiety there. One, just the anxiety of being around people and the anxiety of looking weird [with wearing a mask]. You got to do what makes since with your situation. But giving fellow students a break would be very helpful. If you see someone wearing a mask and you don’t think that’s the best thing to do, just keep it to yourself and let them wear the mask. The same way with someone not wearing a mask. Don’t try to argue with a person over what the right thing is. Make yourself known that you have boundaries. If you don’t want people to get super close to you, don’t be afraid to tell people. Politely say that you are trying to still be distant.”

Hickerson did say that a lot of classes are being offered as hybrid and online in the fall, and that students can change their schedules if they want to.

“This is going to be a weird semester, I think,” he said. “It’s going to be very different and new. Especially for freshman. They didn’t get to do a graduation ceremony and now a freshman convocation. A lot of those classes will be online. In the same way, some students will not have taken online classes before and they will learn how to do that stuff. There will be a lot of newness and because of [that], there will be a lot of frustration. The key here is to be kind to professors, staff workers, and other students as well. Everyone is trying to navigate a situation that we have never been in before and if we all come at it with the perspective [that we are all in the same boat], maybe we’ll be nicer to each other and work together a little bit more.”

Jane Hodges, an AU lecturer in psychology, said anxiety is normal.

“We all worry about something, whether it’s an upcoming test or other school related problem,” she said. “There are ways to help circumvent some of those worries.”

Her recommendations include:

  • Take time for yourself or me-time. Listen to music, watch a movie, meditate, or go for a ride. Spending time alone is a good way to re-focus and gather your thoughts.
  • Get plenty of sleep. What people do not realize is that your body needs additional rest when you are stressed. Less than 7 hours of sleep can exacerbate anxiety.
  • Eat healthy and don’t skip meals. Your body is in overdrive and needs the vegetables and protein. Don’t rely only on quick snacks.
  • Exercise daily. Even 15 minutes of fast pace walking a day releases the feel-good endorphins. This could also double as your me-time.
  • Laugh daily. A little humor goes a long way.
  • Maintain a positive attitude. People actually live longer if they maintain positive thoughts versus negative thoughts.
  • Finally, talk to someone whether it’s a friend or family member. If your anxiety is interfering with your daily life, such as hygiene, social, or school, you may want to consider seeing a counselor or therapist for professional help.

Hodges’ list mirrors my own. I researched ways to help manage my anxiety, and then I practiced them to see how I would feel.

The first one I did was exercise. I did walks around my neighborhood, and it really cleared my head. It allowed me to stop and really breathe and take in all of my surroundings. Eating healthy was another thing. I have been drinking more water and cutting back on sodas. I have also been eating more apples and trying fun ways to use them in recipes. I also set aside time for myself by watching movies, reading, and playing video games.

These help me forget what is bothering me and focus on something more positive. I also been trying to stick to a proper sleep schedule. Getting a full night sleep will help my body get stronger and be more relaxed. I have time for reflection. On my walks, I take time to reflect and see all the positive things in my life. I also try to plan out my day so I can clearly see what I will be doing instead of panicking on what to do next. I also spend time with my family and friends. I need support from those areas to remind me that I am not alone and that I will always have someone to talk to. And lastly, just have fun. Do things that make you happy and don’t be ashamed of doing them. If it helps you stay positive, do it. Not everything works for others.

AU Student Counseling & Psychological Services are available from Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. The office re-opened on July 1. Call (706) 737-1471 to schedule an appointment.

 

Contact Brett Swain at BSWAIN@augusta.edu.