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How I’m Managing My Anxiety During a Pandemic

by Serina Gousby
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The first week of the pandemic felt suffocating.

When I first heard about COVID-19 spreading, it was in the middle of February, while overhearing a conversation at work. I didn’t give much attention to it until I witnessed just a glimpse of racism that was affecting Asian restaurants across Massachusetts, and videos of attacks going viral on social media. Before any anxiety, there was just anger and sadness that I knew far too well, as I’ve been hit with microaggressions and stress over the past few months. 

On March 9th, I was just returning from my staycation, feeling great and excited to work and write…and then suddenly everything got bad. 

Canceled event. Canceled event. Remote. Work From Home. Don’t go out. 60 and over. News. News. News. Underlying conditions. Social distancing. My mother. My aunts. My uncles. Myself. My cousins who work at hospitals. Their health. No masks. Is my throat okay? Am I just going through allergies? Should I be taking an Uber? Six feet apart. I’m afraid to hug my mother. So you can have no symptoms and still have it? Home. Groceries. Amazon. Amazon. More Amazon. No hand sanitizer. 14 days.

Breathe.

This is what my anxiety looked like for the past two weeks, a long repetitive poem that doesn’t seem to stop until I run out of breath. I’ve become numb to “how are you” and “are you okay,” because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked both, and how many times I asked both to others. There have been periods of days I only had two hours of sleep, and I could feel the weight of my eyes every morning, trying to keep them up with the brightness of my computer screen.

I have the privilege to work from home, and although I enjoy being home, I miss part of my work that didn’t involve looking at my computer. As weird as this may sound, I miss touching office paper. I miss the sound of a printer. I miss saying good morning to my co-workers. I miss writing addresses on envelopes. With all that to say, this privilege feels wrong, knowing that people have been laid off, still working in businesses, taking care of patients, and simply risking their lives just to keep people safe. Within the second week, I noticed how frequently I’ve been eating, my facial features have been changing due to my PCOS, and I’m tired every day. Although my mother and I are perfectly healthy as we know now, I’ve kept my distance from her because I have to be the one to pick up groceries, grab essential items, and be near people on my mother’s behalf. It feels weird to not hug her for over two weeks, but I have to deal with it. 

Now that I have allowed myself to feel all of my valid and devastating emotions, I feel more optimistic about the future ahead. As devastating this virus has been, this has become a season of opportunity, and that alone, is the only way I can manage my anxiety; beginning with these five things:

 

1. Wellness Practices and Prayer

Before I start and end the day, I have to use some of my time to recharge and calm myself when I feel a rush of anxiousness coming through. On a regular day, I’m used to having casual 1-hour prayers and conversations with God, but now, it’s been at least 2 ½ hours of asking questions, asking for guidance, praying for the safety of my family and friends, everything. I have a diffuser that I use for my lavender, eucalyptus, and lemon essential oils to cleanse and calm my space. I meditate for 30 minutes in the morning to focus on my breathing, just before I start working from home. Lastly, I have so many exercise DVDs that have kept me in shape back in college (lol), so there’s no excuse that I can’t use this time to move my body at home, or outside as long as I’m not around anyone. Those are just a few things that have helped me keep calm and not get to a place of panic. 

 

2. Entertainment

Lately, music has been my entertainment of choice, like always. Hearing soft and chill r&b songs through my speakers have been a great addition to my work from home routine, instead of having headphones in. After work, much of the R&B and chill music continues, as well as watching DJ D-Nice and The Roots’ Questlove spin the ones and twos on Instagram. The most beautiful gifts during this time are artists and creatives, as some have used this time to spread love and positivity through their art. There’s dance challenges, virtual events, movie watch nights, club quarantine—so many things that are happening now to help keep our spirits up. If you are into slow, risk-taking, judge-free, and chill music, my playlist “The Essentials,” is now on Spotify.

 

3. Connecting with old friends and loved ones

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been blessed to reconnect with people I haven’t talked to in a while, and those moments mean so much to me knowing that they are well and healthy. Video chats have been fun surprisingly with friends, and with the right people, it feels like we’re all in the same room. This is definitely the time to reach out to people you’ve been thinking about, and want to converse with because it’s tough for a lot of us right now, and good conversations can make a difference. 

 

4. Passion Projects

Because of the pandemic, a few events I had scheduled got canceled, including an opportunity to present a session at GrubStreet’s The Muse and The Marketplace Writer’s Conference. Alongside another writer, we were going to discuss our blogs, and help writers start one for themselves. It took me a good four months to dig back into three years worth of knowledge, mistakes, and best practices that I’ve learned for this blog, and I was so excited to share it. Now that the opportunity is gone, I’ve been doing more calligraphy, which has been my favorite passion so far. I’m also getting back to poetry, with a little push from my co-workers (they’re so great). It’s been over a year since I wrote a new poem, so hopefully, I can use this time to create more and use it to spread some love as well. 

 

5. Education

This has been the most important one because I’ve been craving to learn so many things like investing, starting a business, creating e-books, hosting a webinar, and learning more advanced calligraphy skills. This is also a great time to plan out the next few months and dig deep into personal and professional goals you may have—whether it be taking online classes, reading, or developing a new skill. Especially those who have been financially affected, there are local and national relief funds, scholarships, fellowships, contests, grants, and loans that you can research and apply for. 

I constantly have to remind myself to breathe whenever I have to watch the news for minor updates, but through it all,  I know that time will make us much stronger than ever. The earth’s health has been suffering for a long time, and now that we’re paying a bit more attention to it, that will bring us closer to a healthy environment, events, and hugs again. Stay safe, and if the worry becomes too much for you to handle, find your calm. We’ll get through it.

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