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How to cope with anxiety, stress of COVID-19 and racial tension

Posted at 7:21 AM, Jun 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-02 07:22:30-04

At Fox 4, we know life is tough right now. The COVID-19 crisis has drastically changed every day life, and now, with all the tension in our society following the death of George Floyd, it can be a lot to handle. Anxiety and stress can take over. And we want to help you cope and rebound.

As Southwest Florida reopens and we start to see glimmers of everyday life return, many people are reporting anxiety associated with going back to "reality."

"It's really just a matter of feeling out what you're comfortable with. I think just being precautious, but not being too precautious, It's very important that we get back to normal life at some point, respecting that we need to still be cautious," Clinical Mental Health Counselor Janean Byrne, of Serenity Counseling Center in Fort Myers, said.

But what happens if you and your spouse or family members are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to get back out there? For example, if one of you is ready to get back to regular life, but the other is still afraid to leave the house?

"It's important to respect each other's viewpoint, and how each other's feeling. Have a conversation and say, 'OK, let's talk about where we're at with this, and what are the fears,' and hopefully try and meet in the middle somewhere, so one person's not feeling smothered, and the other one's not in complete fear that they're going to get the virus," Byrne said.

She said she's telling couples in this situation to have a plan of attack.

"How are we going to get back into going out into society now that everything's open up? Even writing it down. And let's come to a compromise," Byrne said. "You may have to do some things that you don't want to do, but when you're in a relationship and you're in a partnership, it's important to know that it's not just about you, it's about the relationship," she said.

There's already so much stress and anxiety with COVID-19, but add in what's happening across our country in response to the death of George Floyd, the African American man who died after a confrontation with police in Minneapolis, and tensions are very high.

Byrne said there are ways to manage all of this.

"I think it is important to remember that a lot of this is out of our control, and to think about what is in your control. What can I do to lower my anxiety, be a part of the movement that I want to be a part of, but, understand that all the violence and everything that's going on in these big cities, there is absolutely no control over that," she said.

She said there are healthy ways to contribute online, whether that's donating to a cause you believe in, or engaging in healthy conversation on the subject, but she said it's important not to constantly consume negative information each day.

"Take a break. Say, 'OK, you know what, I'm going to worry about this for the next 10 minutes, and when that time is up, I'm going to go and do something else.' but really taking control of that, instead of letting those thoughts control you," Byrne said.

Taking a break could mean reading a book, taking a walk, or doing another activity you find relaxing or enjoyable. If that doesn't work, Byrne said there are breathing exercises you can try.

"You're breathing in for five seconds, really slow through your mouth, holding it in for maybe five seconds. And then breathing out really slow through your nose for about seven seconds. And you want to do that 5-7 times in a row, and you will feel yourself calm down. And then if you feel like you need to do it again, do another round," she said.

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