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Coping with Stress and Worry During a Crisis

As COVID-19 spreads across the United States, nursing homes, assisted living communities, and even hospitals have restricted visitation. This restriction leaves family members and friends cut off from their elderly loved ones. Maybe you have a different situation. Perhaps your elderly loved one lives with you, and with this, you have a different set of challenges and hurdles to face.

We know that the older population, those 65 years and above, are at a higher risk for severe illness, and COVID-19 strikes them even harder. So, what can you do to help protect this vulnerable population?

  1. Stay home as much as possible

  2. Wash your hands with soap under warm running water for at least 20 seconds

  3. Avoid close contact with people – leave approximately 6 feet around you

  4. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces

  5. Avoid all non-essential travel

Although you may take all the necessary precautions, fear and anxiety have a way of creeping in and becoming overwhelming. If someone you know is experiencing anxiety during this difficult time, you may wonder how to support them. According the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 13 people experience anxiety worldwide. If someone you know and care about is experiencing anxiety, be it chronic or situational, they need emotional support.

Here are 8 ways you can help support a person with anxiety:

1. Just listen

Anxiety often builds from churning thoughts and fears, but the build can be lessened by expressing those thoughts and fears. Encourage your loved one to talk about what they are feeling. Then, simply listen.

2. Offer possible solutions… only if you are asked

After a person tells you their thoughts and fears, many people want to go into “fix it” mode. A “fixer” wants to help provide possible solutions to a problem. Often times, a person with anxiety may not want an immediate solution or fix. Instead, the person may simply want to express their fears and worries.

3. Be present

If someone you care about is anxious, simply being with them may go a long way.

4. Don’t shame

Anxiety often causes a person to overthink and become irrational. To some degree, the person you are trying to help may recognize that they are being irrational because of their anxiety. As you care for someone with anxiety, remember to listen without shaming their fears.

5. Offer comfort

This can be either verbal or physical. Being with someone who has anxiety can go a long way by letting them know that they are not alone. A few simple ways that you can help offer comfort is to draw a warm bath for them or offer them warm tea.

6. Don’t say, “Calm down!”

Telling an anxious person to calm down, is like trying to baptize a cat. Saying this phrase will often escalate the situation and will not help calm an anxious person. Even if you do not share the same worries, recognize their worries and let them know you hear them.

7. Share happy things

When it’s appropriate, share things that will make them smile. For example, a funny animal meme may provide a well needed laugh. A little light humor will go a long way in stressful times. This also helps create a positive environment, which will help lift their spirit during a difficult season.

8. Remind them this isn’t forever

Often, it’s easy to have the false belief that a bad situation will last forever. Whatever is causing a person’s anxiety, it can be helpful to remind them that this season won’t last forever. Situations will resolve, emotions will calm, and difficult times will get better.

As society works its way through all the unknowns and uncertainties, anxiety is bound to creep into all our lives. During this time, it is especially important to support and encourage each other. Our hope is that these tips will not only help you, but those around you as well.

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