Disabled and Anxious – Living Through a Pandemic
After 16 years of representing disabled Americans, I can attest to the fact that many (if not most) disabled folks struggle with chronic anxiety. Living with chronic pain and dealing with fears over one’s financial future can be incredibly stressful and exhausting. Unfortunately, with the emergence of COVID-19, disabled Americans are forced to add a new fear to the list; getting seriously sick. Most disabled people are immunocompromised and/or physically compromised. Therefore, they are at a higher risk for serious complications imposed by this horrible disease. As such, it seems there is no more pertinent time to share some tips for managing anxiety during this health crisis.
Tip 1: Limit your media exposure. While being informed is incredibly important, it is very easy to become the constant media coverage. In addition, it is easy to stumble upon undocumented or unreliable sources. As such, Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the WHO recommends that people check the news only once or twice per day and ensure they are checking only reliable sources.
Tip 2: Do what you can to protect yourself. It is very easy to become paranoid and feel overwhelmed with the task of avoiding the virus. However, doing what you can to gain some control can help. Maintain social distance as recommended by the CDC. Wash your hands frequently and correctly. Sanitize high touch areas and encourage family members who are working during this time to shower upon entering the house, leave their shoes outside and maintain as much distance from others as possible when at work. Finally, stock your home with essentials that you know you will need in order to feel secure that you will not need to go out more than is absolutely necessary.
Tip 3: Don’t Isolate. We live in an era of amazing technological advances. It is relatively easy to maintain contact with loved ones without physically being around them. Use Facetime, Zoom or Skype to video chat with loved ones and friends. Share your fears and frustrations. It is incredibly important to feel connected and supported by those we care about.
Tip 4: Help Others. Depending upon your disability, your abilities to help others will differ. If you are able, donate blood or ask a member of your household to drop some groceries off to an elderly neighbor. If you are not able to leave your home, you could write notes or cards for those who cannot receive visitors in assisted living facilities. Several facilities have posted requests for such mail on Facebook. Find one and get to writing!
Tip 5: Breathe or Meditate: This sounds so simple, and it is. YouTube offers many free guided breathing exercises and meditations aimed at helping a person relax and calm anxiety.
Tip 6: Indulge in Self-Care: Read a good book. Take a bath. Prepare a special meal. Essentially, do something nice for yourself. We all feel lost without our normal routines.
Therefore, it’s important to find pleasure and relaxation in the activities that we enjoy within the safety of our homes.
Tip 7: Get Outside: Whether you have a small balcony or a large backyard, you should do what you can to get some fresh air and sunshine. If you are able, go for a walk. Watching local birds and seeing the beauty in nature can really help to connect you to something greater and help you feel grounded.
Tip 8: Pray: For those of you with faith-based beliefs, I cannot stress enough how powerful prayer can be. Whether you cry, talk, laugh or just think, prayer can help you relieve yourself of the feeling that you carry your worries and stress alone. Find comfort in knowing that God has a plan for you and is with you now and always.
While I know that none of these tips will alleviate the anxiety that we all feel during this difficult time, I hope that they provide some positive and helpful ideas to those who are struggling to manage anxiety related to their disabilities, as well as, the current global pandemic.
Please know that I am here for you and together we will all get through this.
Christina Miller, ADR, EDPNA
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