PFTL UPDATE

Pursuant to the Governor’s orders, we are still closed to the public. But weekly cleanings and disinfecting will still be done until opening again. Trainers may still use the facility, but not for training clients.  We have always used disinfecting wipes and sprays, and these will be abundant when we re-open as well. 

Trainers will maintain contact with our clients through emails and calls.  We will be providing exercise and other health information electronically from time to time.  We are working on ways to stay connected using Zoom and other apps for virtual interactions.

HOW TO COPE WITH COVID-19 ANXIETY WHEN WE DON’T KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT (excepts from Health.com 3/26/20)

Editor’s note:  There are many articles written about how individuals can best understand and cope with the fear and anxiety of this unprecedented life event.  Some of this is good advice, some not so good.   I have selected one that appeared in Health.com which I thought would be helpful.

The COVID-19 pandemic has filled life with a lot of unknowns. Will we get sick? Will a family member or friend end up hospitalized? Will we lose our jobs? Will we need to cancel our wedding? How long will the virus be at the forefront of our everyday lives?

All these what-ifs piling on top of one another are a recipe for panic. This is because we can’t control what we don’t know, Karla Ivankovich, PhD, a clinical counselor says “ The fear of the unknown becomes terrifying because no matter how many ways we try to perceive an outcome, we understand there may be so many more scenarios that we couldn’t even consider,” she explains.

Fight-or-flight response kicks in when we start to fear, which is a “natural mechanism to protect ourselves,” says Ivankovich. “But when the circumstances remain unknown, we stay in a heightened state of awareness, which wreaks havoc on the mind and body. This causes us immense stress, which leads to panic, turning to anxiety. The unknown steals the one thing that gives us comfort in scary times, and that’s control.”

Jud Brewer, MD, PhD, a neuroscientist, says “powerlessness” can lead to a couple of different responses.  A feeling of powerlessness might tell your brain to kick things into gear and “do something to regain control,” says Dr. Brewer. “It might not be obvious what to do, but it doesn’t stop us from trying something. What do you do at a time like this? Just do something. That gets into the loops of the brain, that doing something is better than doing nothing. But no, it could in fact make it worse.”

Panic is motivated by such thinking, and it’s exacerbated by social contagion. When everyone is rushing to grocery stores to buy up all the supplies, and respected newspapers are filled with constant negative headlines, you panic. And it’s called “blind panic” for a reason, he says; you’re not really thinking things through. “Toilet paper became the meme, because it’s ridiculous,” says Dr. Brewer. “It doesn’t make sense. There’s not a shortage of toilet paper.” Basically, you don’t see clearly at all when you’re worrying.

No one is immune from anxiety right now.

Here are some ideas for coping with the unknown and feeling better about it.

Slow down your thoughts by organizing them – Anxiety speeds up your thoughts, and that can cause you to make rash decisions or take quick actions.

The key is to force your body and mind into slowdown. First off, you have to tell yourself to breathe; take deep breaths. Slow your thoughts down. Maybe the quick way to do that is just to get out a word document or a notebook. Start writing to-do lists. Nothing controls anxiety better than putting a checkmark on a to-do list.

This does two things: it compels you to focus on something concrete and creates a sense of control over something you actually can control, whether that’s a walk outside or an assignment at work.

Reach out to others for gut checks – Ivankovich says to consider contacting a therapist if you are struggling. “Many therapists are offering short-term assistance for free,” she says. You can connect with counselors digitally. There are also text-based tools and apps for therapy available, which many are utilizing amid the COVID-19 crisis.

We all have uncertainty right now. “Part of coping with uncertainty is being willing to manage it with lists and processes and people,” she says, noting it is sort of like chess. You can only plan a few moves ahead, because a lot can change. We have to be willing to control what we can, and adapt when we need to.

Stop checking the news so much – Constantly tuning into the 24/7 news cycle means you never know what you’re going to get and it can become addictive. Check the news only twice or three times a day, so you’re getting updates that are similar in scale each time. If the negative headlines are still causing anxiety, shut off those live updates.

“If you want to get news or accurate information, the best way to learn what to focus on is to get accurate info,” he advises. Dr. Brewer suggests the World Health Organization (WHO) or Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), because “they are not going to put anything up that isn’t rock solid,” he says, whereas other news outlets have evolving story updates.

Engage in mindfulness and deep breathing – Ground yourself in the familiar. When you are anxious, it helps to go to a space you know and love. Maybe you relax in a comfy chair in front of a window, do some cooking in your kitchen, or snuggle into a cozy reading nook. A hot bath or shower can also help slow you down. Practice gratitude; write in your journal. Walk, exercise as much as you can.

Sleep should be prioritized right now, even though you might be far off your regular schedule. At least one hour before bed, turn all your screens off. Start slowing your day down. Ten minutes before getting ready for bed, find a dimly lit room and focus on your breathing. Slow your breaths to the point where you are most comfortable with it, as slowly as you can get it, and do this for 10 minutes.

After you do that, continue with your nighttime routine, get into bed and “start slowing your breathing down” once again. You will fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer if you start slowing down well before bed.  Deep breaths allow more oxygen to fill your lungs, and focusing on them can help you let go of more stressful thoughts.

HANG IN THERE!