Is COVID-19 keeping you awake at night?

Do you find yourself worrying and wondering what’s going to happen next?

You’re not alone. Social media has even coined a phrase for the up-and-down range of emotions people are going through as they come to terms with this latest health threat: “coronacoaster.”

The pandemic has spurred more than a few studies about its toll on mental health. A study by SleepStandards, for example, found that 98% of Americans developed new sleep problems after stay-at-home or lockdown orders were issued. Even after the orders were lifted, 68% still felt stress and found it hard to sleep.

Claudia Liljegren, a clinical psychotherapist, who works with St. Williams Mental Health Services in Parkers Prairie, provides these six suggestions to keep worrying at bay when it is excessive or not helpful:

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  1. Keep a pad and pencil near the bed to jot down reminders of what to do if your worrying is focused on remembering to get tasks done. That way, it’s off your mind and you can “let go” of it until the next day.

  2. Try to separate out the difference between habitual worrying and productive worrying. Excessive worrying as a past time is usually a hindrance and causes all sorts of side effects, such as sleeping problems, concentration problems, and irritability. Become aware of when you are worrying, and consciously decide if that is what you want to continue to do with your time.

  3. Choose to “let go” of what you cannot control, and focus instead on those matters you can do something about.

  4. If you choose to worry, focus on what you are worrying about exclusively. It is apparent that worry is knocking on your door for a reason or two. What are those reasons? What are the issues you need to spend time resolving? Give your attention to the matter and process out ways to problem-solve so that Worry can go back to where it came and the issue can be handled the best you know at the time. After reviewing the issue, you may choose that although the issue didn’t get resolved, worrying about it doesn’t bring it to resolution either, and revisiting it later may be the best course of action

  5. Realize that worrying can be unquenchable, with racing thoughts, ruminations, obsessive tendencies and the continual “what if’s” building to a fearful and anxious character that struggles with discovering the opposite, relaxation or finding joy the moment.

  6. Practicing relaxation efforts can also help break up worrying episodes, such as paying attention to and managing your breath or heart rate, visualizing and detailing good memories, identifying enjoyable interests and practicing distraction from useless worrying, keep your focus on the big picture, and above all, be aware when you are worrying and decipher if that is distracting yourself from useless worrying or helpful in resolving things.

Liljegren added that if you experience anxiety that is not better managed with these suggestions and it impacts your health or your life satisfaction, you should consider seeking professional help. “There is a good chance that psychotherapy and/or medications can help put your worries down, allowing the sleep fairy to return again, splashing fairy dust onto you, and singing bedtime songs as you begin your sleeping journey through the night.”