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Coping with COVID-19 Anxiety

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While it is remarkable that so many Californians are confined to their homes to stop the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, it is fortunate that social media and communication technology makes it easier than ever to reach out to others who might be anxious.

How do you stay healthy – spiritually, physically and emotionally – during such an unusual time?

From a faith perspective, the resources available online are tremendous.   Many people already get an email with a daily reading or a short reflection.  Such practices are especially widespread during Lent.

Nearly every diocese, when forced to suspend the celebration of Masses, assembled resources to help people sustain individual and family spirituality.  A list of those is here.

Some parishes are organizing careful outreach efforts to help seniors and others who might not be able to get to the grocery store or have other needs that might be difficult to meet during a shelter-in-place or stay-at-home directive.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other mediums can be treacherous territory filled with cynicism, hatred and just general craziness, not to mention a lot of incorrect information.  But if used compassionately, social media can help establish and support relationships and be an avenue to reach out to family and friends who are alone or anxious about the future.  A video chat call with a family member, fellow parishioner or co-worker can make all the difference in addressing anxiety in both you and them.

This document from the Center for Disease Control provides some useful tips on communication strategies during a disaster.  It can apply to those who are grieving and the concerns many people feel about the coronavirus pandemic.  Among the suggestions:

• Show Respect: Respectful communication is particularly important when people feel vulnerable.
• Express empathy by acknowledging the emotions of those who are suffering.
• Listen and allow emotional expressions or crying without interruption.
• Do not answer questions outside of your expertise. Refer people to appropriate experts.
• Use the same words as the person who is speaking. For example, if they say “passed” instead of “dead,” you should also say “passed.”
• Avoid using examples from your own life and keep the focus on those currently suffering.
• Look for cues in body language and ask if they would like to be left alone, to talk to someone else, or to talk to a mental health professional or faith leader.

Finally, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have also assembled a resource page with prayers, online links, reflections and prayer cards.