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Preparing for a pandemic with an overly anxious partner

It would have seemed impossible for a virus that began in China to eventually spread throughout the world, pushing cities everywhere to adjust to a new normal. It’s been surreal for many of us to watch the cancellation of the Houston Rodeo, travel bans to Europe, and the plummeting of the stock market. Yet, here we are, and families are struggling to find a balance between becoming overly anxious and hopeful for the best.

Couples are arguing more about how much to purchase. Do you really need all those rolls of toilet paper, boxes of cereal, dry non-fat milk, and cases of mac and cheese? Preparing for the worst but not getting caught up in the panic is a struggle for many. A great place to start is for couples to make a list of things they need to feel prepared in the event they were quarantined. Making a list can help you feel more in control and working on the list together helps identify who is more anxious and feels more vulnerable. Discussing facts and honest feelings makes you both calm down and reassures you that you don’t have to keep your fears to yourself.

However, this isn’t an easy task when you live with an overly anxious partner. To you, making a list of essentials such as coffee, soups, soap, and paper products makes sense, but your partner may be envisioning extended quarantine or forced evacuations. Unless you discuss the likelihood of these things happening, your partner’s behavior can begin scaring you more than COVID-19. Stressful events exacerbate underlying emotional problems; for anxious people, it’s likely they’ll become more anxious. I suggest practicing these survival tactics for restoring a sense of calm and stability in your relationship.

  1. Obtaining news from reliable sources. Anxiety and fear motivate you to click on sensational and outrageous headlines. Fact check what you read and make sure the source is reliable.

  2. Organize and take advantage of things you DO have control over. You have control over what you consume, where you go, what you read and watch, and whether you take breaks throughout the day. You can’t control others or the situation so focus on your actions. Consider finding ways to make a difference or bring others comfort.

  3. Develop an action plan to decrease risk according to CDC guidelines. Washing your hands, limiting travel, and staying away from big crowds are all preventive measures to keep you healthy.

  4. Avoid adapting the mob mentality. If your friends are buying 40 rolls of toilet paper and paper towels, it can make you feel that you aren’t doing enough to be safe. Fear creates anxiety which prompts many people to hoard items. You aren’t any safer with 200 rolls of toilet paper, but you will be mentally calmer if you distance yourself from friends who are panicking.

  5. Practice self-care. Focus on making choices that promote healthy living. You are less likely to get sick if your immune system is strong. Eat a balanced diet, get plenty of sleep, and continue to socialize with your closest friends and family. Humans need other humans, especially in times of uncertainty. Feeling lonely or isolated is stressful for the immune system.

  6. Take care of your mental health. Uncertainty causes additional stress to people suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD, and Obsessive Compulsion Disorder. Make sure you have appropriate medication and counseling appointments, even if they need to be moved online.

Partners who work together to remind each other that they are there for them have a higher success rate for surviving times of uncertainty. You have made it through many stressful times, and you’ll make it through this one too. Having faith in yourself and your partner will help you be a light for someone else struggling with their fears and anxieties.


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