Calming anxiety attacks from the pandemic

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dr. Rudi Putranto, Sp.PD, K-Pso, MPH.
dr. Rudi Putranto, Sp.PD, K-Pso, MPH. Photo: ESTI/IO

IO – The pandemic in Indonesia has lasted nearly two years. It is a stress trigger and the cause of prolonged mental pressure among our people. Consequently, many people suffer from anxiety attacks, whether they are diagnosed with Covid-19 infection, have healed from such infection, or never been infected in the first place. Continued anxiety attacks will cause chronic exhaustion, sleep problems, and in the long term, depression. 

”Anxiety attacks frequently occur suddenly without any clear reason. Sufferers fall prey to such sensations as breathing difficulty, heart palpitations, sweating, shaking, choking, nausea, dizziness, loss of control, or intense yet vague worry of impending disaster,” said dr. Rudi Putranto, Sp.PD, K-Pso, MPH, a staff member of the Psychosomatic Illness and Palliatives Division of University of Indonesia Faculty of Medicine/Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital’s Internal Organ Illness Department in the online symposium “Managing Panic caused by the Omicron Variant of Covid-19 using Telemedicine” held in Jakarta, Friday (04/02/2022). 

Anxiety attacks occur unexpectedly and repeatedly. This condition is usually worsened with the subsequent worry that the attack will return, as well as the development of maladaptive behavior relating to the attack. This may include extreme avoidance of people and situations that are perceived as the source of the anxiety, while it is not always possible to do so in ordinary daily living. 

Give Yourself a “Butterfly Hug” 

To prevent anxiety attack during the pandemic, dr. Rudi suggests that people should abstain from checking the news or their social media all day. Instead, they should limit themselves to checking social media and news media twice a day, in the late mornings and in the evenings when there is a lull in their ordinary daily activity. “Sufferers need to focus more on what they are doing in order to be able to maintain productivity and enjoy life. Don’t overreact to any physical symptoms that occur. Be more involved in activities that reduce stress, be gentler to yourself and others,” he said. 

Improved nutrition can both strengthen immunity and reduce anxiety. “Consider ingesting omega-3, curcumin, and vitamin D, or adopt a ketogenic diet. Avoid consumption of sugars, processed vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, and gluten coffee. Do routine exercise, such as walking for 150 minutes in a week. Physical activity helps the body releases the hormone endorphin, which reduces pain and generates positive energy that cheers us up afterwards.” 

One simple way to reduce and avoid anxiety attack is by doing the “Butterfly Hug”. Make an “X” by crossing your arms across your chest, hands on your shoulders, raise your elbows slightly, and close your eyes slowly. Start gently patting yourself on your shoulders alternatively, making your hands flap like a butterfly’s wings. Do this while breathing in and out deeply and slowly. 

There’s a second method for the butterfly hug: cross your thumbs right under the hollow of your throat. Raise your elbows slightly and close your eyes. Flutter your hands like butterfly wings, pat yourself in the chest around the collarbones. 

Do either type of butterfly hug, i.e. keep on flapping gently and breathing deeply, long enough to calm yourself down. 

However, it doesn’t work – if the anxiety stays or even worsens, or if it comes back quickly and you have to keep doing this – ask for professional help as soon as you can. (est)