Anxious about life during and after COVID-19? Psychologist offers tips

It's been a rough couple of months for people who struggle with anxiety.

Miranda Hawkins didn't think she was one of those people.

But, that was back in the beginning, before people in Georgia started getting infected with this novel coronavirus.

"At first I was joking with everyone about it, like, "Oh, this is the flu, don't worry about it," Hawkins says. " Then, all of a sudden, I did a hard 180, and I went 100% the other way."

Hawkins says her anxiety about COVID-19 kicked into overdrive.

"I remember one day, I was at the grocery store, and I couldn't find any Clorox wipes to wipe everything down when you come inside (the store)," she says.  "I had this random thought, 'I need bleach, you know, to, like, put on my hands!' Because my anxiety was so intense, and I was like, 'Wait, don't do that! That's an extreme response!"

 After a couple of weeks of high anxiety, the 30-year-old Atlanta podcast producer adjusted to a new normal.

She has been working from home, walking her dog Frankee, wearing a mask when she shops for groceries, keeping six feet away from other people.

Then, earlier this week, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced he was reopening certain businesses, like hair salons, restaurants, gyms, bowling alleys and nail salons.

That is when, Hawkins says, she was hit by another wave of dread.

"I think it’s all way too soon," Hawkins says.  "I don't want to go anywhere.  I don't want to leave my apartment.  Even taking him out is raising my anxiety.  It's a whole mess. It feels like we're back to square one."

Licensed Clinical Psychologist Dr. Sara Dimitri-Carlton, Ph.D., says her clients are on-edge about Georgia's soft reopening, too.

"I don't think anyone knows exactly how they're going to proceed," Dimitri-Carlton says. “Everyone wants to get back to work and wants to get back to interacting and going out to dinner, but I haven't talked with anyone who is going to do it just because we're allowed to."

If you're nervous about going back out into the world, after weeks of staying home, Dr. Dimitri-Carlton says, tap into the things that have helped you get through this pandemic.

"So, if it's helpful to you to have a thing of hand sanitizer right there in your car, and to use it every time you get back into your car, do it.  If it's helpful to you to have a thing of wipes, if you can find them, in your car and take them with you when you open doors, then those are the things that you need to do."

And, she says, stay informed, but try not to get overloaded.

"Take your own temperature and decide, 'Just how much can I take, and how much does this distress me?" she says.  "If this is too much, let yourself take a break from it. The news will be there tomorrow."

Miranda Hawkins says she and Frankee will be here tomorrow, too, sheltering in place and keeping each other company.

"I am 100% going to continue what I've been doing," Hawkins says. "I'm going to be staying at home. I'm not getting my hair cut. I'm not going out to eat."