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Mentally Coping with the Anxiety of a COVID-19 Diagnosis

The COVID-19 pandemic has been ongoing for over a year now. That fact alone is enough to send most healthy people into a stress-induced tailspin. Our health is just one of many affected factors in our new normal. Stress may be just as difficult to deal with. Even if you and your loved ones haven’t been infected, your life has been turned upside down. So, when your results come back positive, you might not know how to react.

Whether you expect it or not, anyone can become ill. Even healthy medical professionals, working outside of the most at-risk medical settings are susceptible. Rahsaan Lindsey, MD, a psychiatrist at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital, has shared his experience with many to help relate with people who are facing the fear of their own diagnosis and to demonstrate the reality of COVID-19’s spread.

Testing Positive

“In the early days of the pandemic, there were a lot of unknowns,” said Dr. Lindsey. “We were paying constant attention to all of the CDC’s recommendations as new information continued to roll in.” Dr. Lindsey explained that he and his family happily obeyed the lockdown order that kept Arizonans in their homes whenever possible. Like many, he struggled as he watched his friends close businesses and restaurants as a result of the necessary lockdown. As soon as it was lifted, he wanted to do what he could to show support.

“Once the lockdown was lifted, I took my family to a friend’s restaurant,” said Dr. Lindsey. “In these days, masks still weren’t worn by everyone. And although my family and I had our masks on that day, many others did not. I didn’t know it at the time, but I believe I contracted COVID-19 that day.”

A few days later, Dr. Lindsey noticed his family could smell something he couldn't and shortly thereafter his sense of taste diminished. “I went to get a test right away. When the results came back a few days later, I was stunned to see that I had tested positive.”

Why Me?

Dr. Lindsey’s story looks just like so many others. But everyone’s life has its own unique perspective. If you’ve received a positive diagnosis, you may relate with one or more of these difficult scenarios.

  • “I was so careful! Did I do something wrong?”
  • “But I’m young. I thought I couldn’t get sick…”
  • “Now that I’m sick, am I going to be ok?”
  • “Someone in my circle was careless and now we’re all getting sick. It’s hard to not be upset with them.”
  • “My symptoms aren’t so bad. But I’m worried about long-term effects.”

Dr. Lindsey explained why the diagnosis was difficult for him to receive. “I had relatively minor symptoms, so my health wasn’t my immediate concern. My mind immediately turned to my family, friends and coworkers. I asked myself, ‘who could I have infected in the last few days?’” He spent the next day calling anyone he had been near to make sure they were aware of their risk. “It was a little embarrassing. But, to me, it was a responsibility I had to them. I would want to know. So, I made sure they knew too.”

How to Cope

Dr. Lindsey followed quarantine protocol and recovered quickly. However, it was an eye-opening experience, reaffirming the importance of social distancing and giving him firsthand experience of the emotional rollercoaster that one goes through following a positive diagnosis. He offered a few tips for people going through a similar moment.

1. Get help. Get healthy.

Your top priority should be your health. Feeling better physically will help you to cope emotionally. Speak with your doctor to discuss your symptoms and get adequate care.

2. Focus on kindness

“Now more than ever, the world needs kindness,” Dr. Lindsey emphasized. “As you recover, practice empathy with others and look for ways to connect rather than divide.”

3. Don’t live on social media

If you are scared or lonely, you may turn to the internet for answers. By all means, do research to learn how you can get healthy. But limit your time on social media and don’t take in so much content that you become overwhelmed or anxious.

4. Take care of yourself

Remembering to eat, drink and sleep are all part of a healthy routine. This is more important now than ever. With the approval of your doctor, mild and safe exercise is another great way to recover and relax.

5. Stay connected to family members

The isolation of COVID-19 can really get to you. Try to safely interact with friends and loved ones daily via video chat and text. They want to know how you are feeling and let’s be honest, you could use the company.

6. Meditation and prayer

“Many people are finding peace in their belief system right now,” said Dr. Lindsey. If that helps you relax, then by all means take this time to fan the flames of your faith.

7. It’s OK to be upset

Fear, frustration and anxiety are perfectly normal reactions. Allow yourself to process your feelings. But try not to live in a negative state all the time.

Learn more about COVID-19 and how to reduce your stress. You may be interested in these similar articles.

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