Dealing with coronavirus anxiety

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) — The mental impact of the coronavirus is causing panic buying at the grocery store to outrageous claims on social media that fuel the fear.

Because of the virus, the new ‘normal’ is abnormal to most of us.

“What we know is there are two things our brains are wired to feel stress about and one is uncertainty and the other is discomfort,” says Dr. Katherine Stone, a licensed psychologist in Lexington.

Dr. Stone says the coronavirus is certainly causing discomfort – people are out of their routines, there’s an uneasiness in day-to-day life, and an uncertainty about what’s going to happen next.

“We have no protocol from the past to be able to know what’s coming next,” says Dr. Stone.

She says people are currently using the middle part of their brains, the limbic system, the part that tells us to go into flight, fight or freeze.

“They’re going into that fight or flight and to decrease their anxiety they’re hoarding goods that they think they might need and it’s really unnecessary. It’s not very patriotic and it doesn’t help the community as a whole,” says Stone.

Which is why stores are running out of toilet paper, baby formula, hand sanitizer and more.

“People are so panicky that they’re doing things that in their minds that they feel like will help them with survival,” says Dr. Stone.

She says we need to get back to using the top part of our brains that uses logic, reasoning and planning. And she says the first step to do that is being aware, expecting and accepting the anxiety this will bring.

“We know we can override the limbic system or the emotional part of the brain by doing mindfulness activities whether it’s doing square breathing whether it’s focusing on the breath whether it’s meditation or prayer but these things can help to calm,” says Stone.

She says to try to get some sort of routine during this chaos.

“We’re used to it with our work life. Our kids are used to it with their school lives so if we can create some of that at home,” says Stone.

She says even limiting time watching TV or looking at social media.

“Watching the news, catching up on the stuff is important but monitor yourself if it’s making you anxious or if it’s all you’re consuming all day,” says Stone.

Dr. Stone says it’s important to focus on what we’re gaining right now, not what we’re losing. And that our reality now, won’t be our reality forever.

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