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Worrying Your Way Through COVID-19? Here’s How to Quiet Your Mind

April 08, 2020

Your mind races from one thought to the next on a seemingly endless loop of mostly frightening possibilities and crippling ideations as the COVID-19 pandemic heightens all your fears and anxieties.

While it’s not unusual to have such thoughts at times of such unprecedented upheaval and uncertainty, for your emotional and physical health, it’s important to be able to quiet your mind so you can focus on work you may be doing remotely, tasks around the house, or even just to sleep.

“The experience of rehearsing future threats and mentally bracing for every potential outcome is commonly referred to as worrying,” noted Dr. David Tolin, director of the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Institute of Living, part of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network. “Although worrying is not physically harmful, it can lead to chronic feelings of anxiety and tension, which can cause physical reactions such as high blood pressure, headaches and gastric disturbances.”

Some people, however, find it challenging to quiet the mind and might actually feel the problem worsens when they try, he continued.

“I often encourage worriers to practice mindfulness,” he said, “which is not striving for an ‘empty mind,’ but rather simply paying attention to scary thoughts as they come up, without judging them or trying to control them. Mindfulness meditation has been demonstrated to reduce the frequency and intensity of worrying.”

Dr. Tolin suggested the following steps for trying mindfulness meditation:

  • Get comfortable, close your eyes and start taking deep breaths. Inhale deeply and exhale completely, like a sigh.
  • Notice your breathing. Feel the movement of air through your nose, to your diaphragm and deep in your abdomen. Find the place where your breath is most prominent. This is your anchor point.
  • Let your thoughts go. It’s natural for your thoughts, fears, muscle twitches to start surfacing within a few seconds. Just keep returning your thoughts to your anchor point.
  • Use an app or a timer so you know when to stop. By keeping it simple, you can fit meditation into your busy schedule and can make it a priority.

“By closing your eyes and controlling your breathing,” he said, “you allow mindfulness meditation to naturally slow your thoughts down and make you aware of yourself and your body. When you are centered, you are able to cope better with life’s challenges.”

For more help with anxiety at the Institute of Living, click here.

Not feeling well? Call your healthcare provider for guidance and try to avoid going directly to an emergency department or urgent care center, as this could increase the chances of the disease spreading.

Click here to schedule a virtual visit with a Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent care doctor.

Stay with Hartford HealthCare for everything you need to know about the coronavirus threat. Click here for information updated daily.

Questions? Call our 24-hour hotline (860.972.8100 or, toll-free, 833.621.0600). 

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