7 tips to calm your corona crisis concerns

Practicing mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and spiritual practices will help center you in routines and awareness, and keep your mind from wandering into the dark and sometimes irrational unknown.

Even physicians feel stressed and uneasy about the COVID-19 pandemic, maybe more so than others. After all, we’re supposed to be the ones with the answers to our patients’ questions and have the means to help them. And unfortunately this is a time when we have little of both and it’s frustrating.

One of my collagues read an article about dealing with this stress, and to decrease our stress from having one more piece of information to read he briefly outlined it in an email and added his own thoughts. I liked it so well I asked him if I could feature it here and he graciously consented. And like he did, I have added a few of my thoughts and some references, as well as a link to the original article from CNNhealth.

MANAGE ANXIETY-DON'T BE AFRAID-BE SMART
Limit the frequency of your updates, including social media  

With one of my patients who I was having to talk off of a ledge twice weekly, I suggested allowing herself one news check-in for 30 minutes each morning.  This worked for her.  Choose a frequency and a time that works for you.  But why stop there?  Consider a social media sabbatical .  Truly.  Give it a week and see how you feel. Taking the apps off your phone or tablet helps keep you accountable. 

CDC-Coronavirus Disease 2019

Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction

a podcast by Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Join CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta for the latest news about the coronavirus. He’ll make sense of the headlines, speak with the experts and give you all the information you need to stay safe and healthy.

diagram of the human brain.
The major parts of the brain, including the pineal gland, cerebellum, spinal cord, brain stem, pituitary gland, and cerebrum are labeled. photo courtesy of Source: National Cancer Institute Creator: Alan Hoofring (Illustrator)
Name your fears

Recognize that we all have a negativity bias hard-wired into our brains.  It’s a leftover evolutionary tool that helped keep our caveman and hunter-gatherer ancestors alive. 

In addition to constantly scanning our environment for threats, it also does a good job of overestimating the likelihood that something tragic will befall us, and underestimates our capacity and resources to cope.  We’re not crazy or neurotic, we’re just wired that way.

Conversely, if you minimize or ignore the threat of the pandemic, ask yourself if you should  take it more seriously. If your reactions don’t match those of others in your community, your fear may have driven you to denial.

Practice Social Distancing
Think outside yourself: 

If/when you are feeling overly worried and anxious, and your thinking feels contracted and hopeless, turn your thoughts to how you can help someone else.  This may be a child or other family member, a group of society that is at risk or marginalized at this time, or some of the groups at higher risk due to their occupations, age, or medical conditions. 

Science is unequivocal that when our thoughts turn to serving others, symptoms of worry, anxiety and depression lessen, and we feel better about ourselves.  And this does not have to be anything big, simply shifting to focus off of ourselves and onto someone else helps.

a smiling woman working on a laptop computer
Physicians and counsellors are available virtually, by phone or video visits.
Seek support, but do it wisely: 

Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.  And that goes for us caregivers too.  We are not, and should not think of ourselves, as impervious to the various stressors, the disrupted routines and all of the uncertainty that is prevalent in the world right now. Ask someone you can trust to be objective and rational, and not feed your worries or concerns. 

Pay attention to your basic needs

Don’t get so wrapped up in thinking about the coronavirus that you forget the essential, healthy practices that keep you physically well. 

  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Keeping up with proper nutrition
  • Getting outside as much as possible
  • Engaging in regular physical activity

Practicing mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and spiritual disciplines will  help center you in routines and awareness, and keep your mind from wandering into the dark and sometimes irrational unknown.

a women with hands clasped in prayer with a Bible
a man reading to two young girls, sitting in a woman's lap
Don’t chastise yourself for worrying. 

Again, this is part of our normal evolutionary programming.  And to help kids when they are scared, don’t just tell them everything is going to be alright. 

Let them know you hear their concerns and that you understand where they are coming from.  And THEN give them evidence and reasoning for the opposite side of the worry equation.  

Acknowledge their fears, and validate them…  And then do the same for yourself.

This post was adapted from this article on CNNhealth

How to keep coronavirus fears from affecting your mental health

Thanks to my guest writer-Dane Treat, M.D.

Dr. Treat graduated from the University of Oklahoma medical school, although a couple of decades later than I did. He completed residency at Good Samaritan Family Practice in Phoenix, where he lives and practices now. He also completed a Sports Medicine fellowship. He is a student of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction. He wisely married a Mayo Clinic trained gastroenterologist, and they are the proud parents of a daughter.

near Phoenix, at Scottsdale Arizona, The Boulders Resort; photo by Dr. Aletha

exploring the HEART of dealing with COVID-19

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

If you are depressed and thinking about or planning suicide, please stop and call this number now-1-800-273-8255

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

If you want to help, donate to your local food bank, or make a purchase or donate to The Hunger Site.com . (This is an affiliate link that pays this blog a commission, however 100% of a donation stays with the charity.)

Dr. Aletha

Two Words That Still Change My Life

When I watched the war in Vietnam on TV news, I didn’t realize the doctor I had read about had worked there. I never imagined that I would ever go there. And I never imagined that war would help me meet my husband, and create a family that brings me joy every day.

I’ve shared this post several times, and every time I’ve heard from someone, usually unexpected, who tells me the story speaks to them in a similar way.Like

  • A couple I’ve never met in Australia
  • A long ago friend I had not talked to since we were teenagers
  • A young mother who was a former work colleague.
  • One of my best childhood friends

I didn’t know  any of their stories before, but learning we share a similar bond brought new meaning to our relationship.

If you are someone who shares a story similar to ours, I hope you will contact me. My husband and I would love to join our hearts to yours wherever you are. Perhaps these words will change your lifves too. .

a couple sitting at a table by a window with an ocean view

Here is the post, originally called

Two Words That Changed My Life

In college I participated in Chi Alpha, a faith-based student group. When I started dating  a young man of a different faith, he enjoyed coming to the gatherings with me and my friends liked him. We were fond of each other, but his feelings grew stronger and more serious than mine.

To be fair, I ended the relationship. We parted amicably but he left our group; it was awkward for both of us. Although the breakup was best of us both, I grieved  the loss of our friendship.

One evening several of us were talking when a new member of our group joined us. We knew little about him other than he had recently left the Army and started attending the university.

He looked at me and said, “Where is John tonight?” (not his real name) No one spoke as everyone looked from me to him and back to me. Apparently he was the only one who didn’t know we had broken up.

Finally, one of the girls softly explained, “They aren’t dating anymore.”

Everyone remained silent, I suppose assuming I was upset . I wasn’t upset but I realized everyone else was uncomfortable. I didn’t want our new friend to feel bad about the mistake, so I tried to make light of it. I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head.

“That’s right,” I said smiling.  “I’m available.”

With that, everyone, including me, laughed. Thinking back now, I wonder why I said that. It was out of character for me, a confirmed introvert, and besides, I did not need or want another romantic relationship. I was planning to attend medical school, and romance did not fit into that plan.

However, the young man took me seriously, calling me a few days later to ask for a date. And despite my reluctance to become involved, I said yes.

“What harm could it do?” I thought. “Why sit in the dorm alone on Friday night?”

Two more words

That night I learned about Raymond’s past. He had served for three years in the Army . He had already earned a bachelor’s degree and was attending graduate school with his veteran’s benefits. I casually asked if he had been stationed overseas. He said yes- he had served in Germany and in Vietnam. I did not realize those words also would change my life.

soldiers at a remote military base
various scenes from the firebase where Raymond was stationed in VietNam; I understood nothing about what happened there.