Every time I feel a little under the weather, I panic that I have COVID-19. How can I deal with hypochondria going into the winter?
Crystal Cox / Business Insider
Experiencing some level of concern when you or a loved one has symptoms that could be COVID is a healthy response to keep you safe.
Manage anxiety and reduce your risk by being in control of what you can, such as: B. Learn the differences between cold, flu and coronavirus symptoms and get the flu shot.
Regularly practicing stress relief techniques like meditation can also strengthen the part of your brain that allows you to observe facts without your emotions taking control.
If your concern is interfering with your day-to-day functioning, turn to one of the many virtual practices currently available.
Do you have a coronavirus dilemma for Anna? Submit it anonymously here.
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I have chronic allergies, so every time I get a scratch in my throat I get alerted and ask myself: is that COVID ?! My panic isn't limited to me. Every time my kids cough, I fear it's "corona cough," and when my husband told me he had a sore throat (which turned out to be allergies) I freaked out. He now wishes he hadn't told me.
I used deep breathing to calm myself down in the moment and did a quick test once, but I've also done some crazy things like drinking garlic water (roughly). How can I stay both safe and healthy this winter, if there are any possible explanations - such as cold and flu - for these symptoms?
- Ashley, Washington, DC
I feel you. I woke up in the middle of the night in April with a sore throat and a hot forehead and announced, "I have it." In the morning I was convinced I was going to die - and I'm usually the opposite of a hypochondriac.
While my symptoms went away within 24 hours, the emotional effects were astounding. They're smart about how to deal with similar fears when the seasons change again.
First, realize that your fears are serving an important purpose. As one of my favorite anxiety professionals, licensed psychologist Julie L. Pike told me, "Anxiety is the way Mother Nature tries to protect us by pushing us to remove uncertainty and find a solution."
If you had no concerns when you or a loved one were experiencing coronavirus symptoms, you would be more likely to make reckless decisions that could harm your health, your community, and the course of this very real and deadly disease.
The key is to keep these fears at bay so as not to affect your wellbeing and your ability to perform tasks like taking care of your children and getting your job done. I've spoken to Pike and other experts about what works best to get that balance.
Take control of what you can like to wear a mask and get the flu shot
Ever since I heard the phrase "Action is the antidote to fear" for the first time, it has stayed with me because it is so true.
In the case of the coronavirus, there are many things you can do (or in many cases not) take to keep yourself and your family safe. Wear a mask when out in public, choose outdoor and indoor settings whenever possible, avoid close contact with people outside your household, you know the exercise.
The more public health strategies you follow, the lower your risk of developing COVID-19 and the less likely your sore throat is actually contributing to the virus.
Also, educate yourself about the difference between coronavirus, cold, flu, and allergy symptoms. While there is a lot of overlap, coronavirus patients often develop a fever before a cough, while the common cold usually comes with a sore throat, my colleague Aria Bendix reported.
In November 2009, Touro University on Mare Island had H1N1 flu vaccinations. The event, held in collaboration with the Solano County Health Department, administered the vaccine to people in the CDC high priority groups.
It is also important that you and your family get the flu shot. While it doesn't guarantee you won't get the flu, it will drastically reduce your risk and again it can help you narrow down possible symptoms.
As a bonus, the flu shot can indirectly protect you from COVID-19 as the flu weakens your immune system and makes you more susceptible to the coronavirus. And it's possible to get both at the same time (so as not to add more to your panic pile).
Don't be afraid to call a doctor to ask if your symptoms and situation warrant a coronavirus test. While there is no need to get one every time you feel less than 100%, testing is an important tool both to answer your question (is it COVID?) And to provide national data to combat it Pandemic can contribute.
Incorporate other stress management strategies
You said you take a deep breath to deal with stress in the moment which is great. Pike also recommended strategies like placing your hands above your head, like you might cross a finish line, to signal your brain that you are safe.
"Our thoughts are really a product of what our bodies experience," she said.
It's also a good idea to use other stress management techniques if you're not panic.
Pike told me that regular exercises like yoga, meditation, and tai chi "actively build and strengthen that part of your brain that allows you to observe without reacting emotionally". In other words, if you only meditate for a few minutes a day, you can stay calm the next time your child coughs.
Creating a daily "gratitude list" can also work wonders in boosting psychological resilience, Pike said.
That "helps us stop focusing solely on potential threats or negative elements in our environment that our limbic brain is ... wired to," she said. "Broadening our perspective and realizing that while things are challenging and uncertain, there are also good things in our daily lives" can make a world of difference.
Don't be afraid to get help
Anyone who pays enough attention to the state of our world has to do with increased stress. But an amazing part of them is about something more: clinical levels of anxiety and depression.
A CDC report published in August found that about a quarter of Americans had symptoms of anxiety and about the same percentage had symptoms of depression in June. That is three or four times higher than for those who met the same criteria in the second quarter of 2019.
The better news is that therapists across the country have relocated their practices online so you can access far more than if you had limited yourself to those in the DC area. In addition, virtual therapy services like Brightside and TalkSpace will remain available, and some therapists are offering free online group therapy sessions.
Pike told me not to get involved in the "Trauma Olympics" - for example, when you tell yourself that you don't need help because other people are much worse off. Instead, think of this as the perfect time to develop lifelong tools for managing stress and anxiety. Your future self will thank you.
Senior Health Reporter Anna Medaris Miller is here to help you make decisions about living in the current "normal," which is anything but. Based on their extensive coverage of the pandemic; Links with medical, mental and public health professionals; and your own life and common sense, she will help you overcome coronavirus problems big and small. Send your questions to Anna anonymously here.
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