Coronavirus And Hard Times - A Modern Pandemic
It seems not long ago I wrote articles on anxiety troubles and here I am again, facing a new challenge, like the rest of us. Anxiety concerns us now more than ever amid the current world’s crisis. So the topic of this article is anxiety, how can I diversify the understanding of anxiety and apply techniques for those people experiencing difficulty during the virus.
My article on social anxiety (parts 1 and 2) serve as a foundation for all anxiety-related disorders but there are lots of anxiety disorders. So there has to be a blend of foundational as well as some specific anxiety-related content to help as many people as possible.
What I’ve read on the news media is that there is a sharp rise of anxiety in OCD related disorders. This has to do with hygiene that affects order, rituals, avoidance and repetition. It’s a challenging situation and with my experience working with OCD clients, I know how difficult it can be. So what are some possible solutions ?
1) Know that OCD based anxiety is a battle between rational and irrational thoughts incoming from the brain. People with symptoms of OCD tend to struggle with processing thoughts. Specifically anxious thoughts, are a barrier that frustrate such people. So what thoughts do you follow? All of it? Some? None? We often look to the world i.e. social norms, personal experience, culture, media etc to learn what’s appropriate and what’s not. We all have a baseline which we compare with. We all know that thinking you’re going to fall and injure yourself every day is quite extreme and one many won’t think of. Yet for people with OCD or such symptoms, they will worry about having such thoughts and the consequences of carrying out those thoughts. So it’s imperative those people practice mindfulness and focus on the here and now rather than listening to doubtful thoughts.
2) It’s worrying to say but should be stated that the virus has made those already struggling with hand-washing rituals extremely difficult task. One of the best ways to reduce compulsive behaviours is to seek reassurance from family and friends that a perceived threat is not a REAL threat. And if it is a real threat, then it’s not as dangerous as it’s made out to be. Of course, this will take patience and time but it’s a necessary step to combat worries.
3) One very important method is literally tune out of social media, news channels and gossip family and friends circulate. Why? It only seeks to reinforce worry and fear: the hallmarks of anxiety. There’s only so much your mind can take so why bombard it with excessive stimuli? Yes sometimes receiving news updates is important during this time, so instead of tuning in to social media whenever you feel compelled to do it, set a time, a strict time. This can be 1 hour per day or it can be spread out throughout the day, like a mini chunk i.e. 15 minutes spread over 4 times a day. All these health secretaries and politicians can further trigger your anxiety so please, be careful what you choose to listen to and believe. The politicians, healthcare industry, social media all have their job to do, but it’s not your job to tune in to them 24/7. Let it be.
4) Sometimes rituals can be so out of control, so long as the person feels reassured they are clean, the cycle goes on. One general way to combat this is to take out a journal, track how many times you wash your hands and with every wash, whether your hands visually look clean? NHS guidelines right now is to wash hands for 20 seconds, that is sufficient. If you did it for a minute, how much more clean would your hands be? There is a point of diminishing returns, so track how many times you wash your hands and how long you take. The point of this is to prove that you're actually spending so much unnecessary time on this ritual and secondly, that more washing doesn’t lead to better results. Also note, do not make tracking an exact science. It’s just there to help you. If you feel the tracking is becoming a burden, reduce the number of times you do it. It’s ok if you default back to your rituals now and then, but a conscious effort to challenge your anxieties is more important.
So there you have it, some foundational methods of tackling anxieties surrounding hand washing rituals. Remember people, these are general guidelines, not specific to your exact needs. However if you need that extra help and the basic techniques do not quite hit the sweet spot, come over and contact me. I will tailor therapy for your exact needs. Nobody needs to struggle in silence. Until next time.