Coping with the anxiety of COVID-19


Life is good. It can be right on track and everything going according to plan. Then some unforeseen obstacle derails us and turns everything upside down.

Such is the case in our world right now as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Closings, empty store shelves, fear of the virus and uncertainty about the future have people on edge and anxious. Americans are being forced to face a new reality.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, response to the outbreak can depend on one’s background, the things that make you different from other people and the local community where you live.

“We are in the midst of a pandemic, which is something that most of us have never experienced before in our lives,” said Dr. Joyce Spurgeon, a psychiatrist with Schneck Mental Health and Wellness in Seymour. “Fear of the unknown is difficult for a lot of people to handle.”

Spurgeon said coping mechanisms are very individual as far as which one is the best for any given person.

“Everyone has go-to coping strategies that they use when stressed, whether they are aware of it or not,” Spurgeon said. “These will be the strategies that will be used in the coming days.”

She said having awareness of more unhealthy strategies will be helpful in how people make their choices about how to respond to these stressful times.

“Some important strategies to keep in mind would be humor. A good laugh is an excellent way to relieve stress,” Spurgeon said. “Exercise is a good way to relieve internal pressure while also getting the boost from the body’s natural endorphins.”

In times like these, it’s important to remember what we can control, said former Seymour resident Kaylee McDonald, a master’s student in clinical mental health counseling at Ball State University in Muncie.

“While it is reasonable to take precautions such as social distancing, washing our hands and being cautious, it is not reasonable to let worry and fear take us over completely,” McDonald said. “Engaging in other activities that put our minds at peace for a while, like FaceTiming friends and family, prayer, puzzles, games, Netflix and so on, can be helpful.”

She said by taking measures like this each day to help reduce both mental and physical anxiety, people can stay calm enough to think realistically and remember they can feel a sense of comfort and safety, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Calming kids’ anxiety

Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in both adults and children.

Spurgeon said for parents of scared children, she said it’s important to be present with your kids. Parents all going to be home more and trying to spend time with their kids doing things the family will enjoy.

“Provide appropriate reassurance to your children whenever you can,” Spurgeon said. “Limiting the amount of time that you are watching television and information that they are getting through electronics would be something to consider.”

Spurgeon said it’s not that you want to hide the truth, but the amount of information is daunting, and the constant nature of it on television is not going to be healthy for children in the long run.

“Take time to play and be a family,” she said. This is the best thing that you can do for your children.”

Laura Clark of Seymour said her daughter will soon be 6 and hasn’t really been paying attention to the news.

“I’ve just told her we’re going be home a lot more and that I will try and make things super fun and do lots of Disney things,” she said.

Dealing with


Our country is declaring social distancing measures. Schools and businesses are closing or making adjustments to work from home in an attempt to “flatten the curve.” The high-risk population is being urged to stay home and keep away from others.

For many people, being indoors for an extended period of time can lead to cabin fever.

“Routines and structure are the way that most people are wired to exist,” Spurgeon said. “There are a lot of things that are not possible right now because of social distancing.”

She said this is a time people can set up some new routines at their house.

Something else that could help is that spring has finally arrived, and Spurgeon said sunshine is good for everyone.

“Having good weather and warm days will allow people to be out of their houses even if they are unable to be with other people,” she said. “This will be very helpful. There is a lot of research about the power of the sun, particularly for those people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder.”

How the

community is coping

To get through this difficult time, Judy McKain of Freetown said she and her husband, Dan, remind each other many times each day of their blessings.

“We also find reasons to laugh, which is always good medicine,” she said. “Our faith is strong and overall health is good.”

McKain said while she and Dan are at risk due to their age and minor underlying issues, they will take each day with thankful hearts.

“We pray for our country and the decision-makers and that we citizens can react with positivity,” she said. “A favorite Bible verse of mine is Philippians 4:13.”

Seymour resident Maria Hauersperger said she is limiting her exposure to the news and trying to focus only on what she can control.

“My adult children are home, which makes my heart happy,” she said. “Our family has been making silly videos, playing board games and watching movies.”

She said they’ve also been listening to music, dancing, sorting old photos, enjoying meals together, doing yard work, watching their online church services on Sundays, taking walks and counting their blessings.

“My heart hurts for our country, but I know God is in control,” she said. “I am missing my sixth grade students and am eager to interact with them via eLearning.”

Taking care of

ourselves and others

Spurgeon said she is concerned about the mental health needs all along this path.

“Those needs will vary greatly,” she said. “Even before this pandemic, the mental health system was highly understaffed.”

Spurgeon said as the needs increase, she is worried about how we will be able to meet them; however, she does believe in the power of community.

“If we can take care of ourselves, our families and our neighbors, I believe that we will find a way through all of this,” Spurgeon said. “The isolation is going to be hard on a lot of people. We can all check on others and try to help others without being in the same room with them. The beauty of technology allows us to do these things.”

Spurgeon said there are a lot of apps and web-based programs that people can access online.

“They range from programs that teach you cognitive behavioral skills to deal with mood symptoms to apps that help you meditate and relax from your anxiety,” she said.

Julia Mull Murphy of Seymour said something she doesn’t understand is the uncaring comments she has seen lately on social media.

“I saw a comment yesterday where a person thought the precautions everyone is taking is ridiculous because the only people of concern are the elderly and those with compromised health,” she said.

Murphy’s parents fall into both categories.

“Are their lives and well-being less important because of that?” Murphy asked. “Have we stopped valuing the lives of those who are already dealing with health issues and compromised immune systems?”

She said we’re all in this together, so people shouldn’t place others in jeopardy because they want to live their lives the way they normally do.

“These are not normal times,” she said. “We all need to pull together and be more diligent in protecting ourselves and others, so let’s all work together.”

Taking care of yourself, your friends and your family can help you cope with stress and make you, the people you care about and your community stronger.

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For information, visit

For the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, call 800-273-8255.


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