Anxiety taking a toll after four weeks of stay-at-home order: Tips on how to cope


HONOLULU(KHON2)–After four weeks of following the stay-at-home order in Hawaii , experts said stress brought on by the pandemic may be getting to people.

“There’s a nearly palpable feeling of gloom out there and that might just have to do with the fact that we are very social critters and people aren’t getting to socialize,” Doug Schwartzsmith, Psy. D. said.

Schwartzsmith said in the beginning it seemed like some people enjoyed staying home and working from home, but it’s become more drudgery.

Graham Taylor, Psy.D., said many emotions people are experiencing are normal including “normal levels of fear or worry, anxiety, a kind of sadness, irritability, edginess, things like maybe some changes in your sleep or eating, maybe even difficulty concentrating because our mind is on this pretty significantly.”

But there is a point at which feelings and emotions get more serious and can turn into mental health issues according to Lawrie Ignacio, Psy.D.

“If that (fear) turns into panic or even panic attacks, or unmodulated fear where I can’t calm myself down, where its more chronic or consistent as opposed to what would normally come in waves and abate…Angry outburts, irritability that is not containable, or coping strategies that are unhealthy such as turning to substances like drugs or alcohol, reckless behavior,” Ignacio explained.

Although it can feel overwhelming, Taylor said there are ways to cope.

He said your attitude and outlook is the most important foundation to build upon.

“The first thing we can do is we can right-size our thinking…remembering that we’ve all gone through hard times in our lives before and we’ve survived them and knowing this too shall pass,” Taylor said.

With so much uncertainty and so many questions surrounding the pandemic– Will you catch the virus? When will you be able to go back to work? How will you be able to pay your bills?–Ignacio said focusing on things you can control will help.

“Everything from hygiene to finding creative outlets–finding ways to harness the silver linings of what we can do now. ‘Well, I wanted to plant a garden, I haven’t done that in a long time. This would be a good time to do that’…those kinds of things bring a healthy sense of control, productivity and even fulfillment,” Ignacio said.

Volunteering or giving back to the community can bring a sense of joy and accomplishment to both the giver and the receiver according to Taylor.

He said talking to family and friends and fostering social connections is vital whether by phone or video chat.

Schwartzsmith also suggested taking a break from social media and exercising.

“Get outside and go for a brisk walk. Get that full spectrum light of the sun and get the body moving. That helps with moods and it helps dissipate anxiety as well. If you can go with somebody from your household then it’s even a little bit social,” Schwartzsmith said.

Taylor acknowledged that sometimes the coping strategies are outside our ability. That’s when you should reach out to a professional.

“A trained therapist can help walk through and navigate this time when things come particularly challenging or there are just areas where you want to grow.”

Many psychologists are offering online sessions. Click here for resources.

If you or anyone you know is a victim of domestic violence call The Domestic Violence Action Center helpline.

The Oahu Helpline: (808) 531-3771
Toll Free Helpline: (800) 690-6200
New Text Line: (605) 956-5680
If at any time that you feel you are in danger or need help, please call 911.

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