SHREVEPORT, La. -- As coronavirus stories dominate headlines and social media news feeds, it can take an emotional toll on people.
KTBS spoke with Dr. Michelle Yetman, a clinical psychologist at LSU Health-Shreveport about how to handle the anxiety.
Yetman discussed a few issues:
“We’re witnessing a lot of panic buying and hoarding behavior, and that’s a direct result of anxiety,” Yetman said.
According to Yetman, anxiety stems from the perceived lack of control that comes from the unknown. There are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to COVID-19.
Yetman said rushing to the store and cleaning off the shelves is one way of trying to assert control, but it’s not the right way.
“That tends to trigger anticipatory anxiety. And as psychologists, we know that anticipatory anxiety is one of the worst forms of anxiety. It’s worrying about what could happen and playing the ‘what if’ game,” Yetman said. “You have to actually fight that tendency, because anxiety does make us panic and it makes us think only of ourselves. So we have to fight that natural tendency.”
Yetman offered suggestions on how to better channel the anxiety.
“The antidote for that is what we call, ‘present behavior’ -- trying mindfulness, trying to stay in the moment,” Yetman said. “Yes, plan. Yes, be careful. Yes, wash your hands… but don’t catastrophize.”
“We don’t need to behave this way,” Yetman added. “This is actually a time where we can actually bring out our best selves – think of our neighbors, think of people who might actually need help, picking up something for them.”
Caring for Children
With schools closed across multiple states, including Louisiana, children are now without the structure of their daily routine. Yetman said it’s critical to maintain structure at home.
She suggests not spending the day in pajamas and sticking to a routine, while also taking advantage of time together as a family.
“This is an opportunity to get to those projects you want to get to, family game time, family movie watching,” Yetman said. “We’re very lucky here in Shreveport – we don’t have the population density that other cities have… you can still get out, you can still walk. Exercise both for children and adults is very important for maintaining your physical health as well as your mental health.”
Processing Bad News
As developments change so rapidly during the pandemic, it can feel like negative news is constantly lighting up our phones at all hours. This is why Yetman said it’s important to limit media exposure to an extent.
“Now is a time to practice good media literacy skills, be very critical of what you’re consuming. Also be careful about watching too much media around young children. They’re very sensitive to it… it can be very alarmist to them,” Yetman said.
Yetman suggests checking TV news a couple of times a day instead of leaving it on in the background.
She also pointed out that the amount of time spent on social media is directly proportional to the amount of anxiety they feel, so putting the phone down for a while could benefit your health.
“Being overly stressed over things you can’t control – that’s not good for your physical health, because we know there’s a connection between the mind and body,” Yetman said. “So you really should take this time to be as physically and mentally healthy as possible.”