Anxiety and depression are running high these days over concerns of COVID-19. Charlottesville resident and author Lisa Jakub has written about her own struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. She recently spoke with WMRA's Chris Boros about some techniques that can calm a racing heart.
WMRA: A lot of people are really feeling anxious during these times so I guess my first question is: How are you?
Lisa Jakub: I’m OK. I think that is the blanket answer that I have gotten used to saying. That’s what so many of us are saying, we’re OK. It’s really hard to define how we’re doing in any given moment because I don’t know about anyone else but for me it changes hourly. Sometimes I’m feeling optimistic and hopeful and being in the present moment and I’m taking care of myself and I’m taking care of my family and I’m doing the things that I know I should be doing. And then an hour later I’m crying on the couch under a quilt because it’s all I can handle. I think so much of surviving this emotional roller coaster that many of us are on is just kind of being OK with that and understanding that these emotions are going to come and go and that’s very very normal in this very very abnormal situation we are finding ourselves in.
WMRA: I’d like to talk about panic attacks because this is something you have dealt with and you write about in your latest book. Can these occure more often when we are in crazy times like this?
LJ: Absolutely. We are in a time of heightened panic. What’s really interesting is that we are now in this space where we are in a prolonged sense of sympathetic nervous system response, so we are constantly being triggered into this fight, flight, or freeze. And for most of us, flight is not an option. We are stuck in our homes and there’s nowhere in the world that we can go where this wouldn’t be an issue, so flight is out. So we are left with fight or freeze. Relationships are being tested because people are fighting with each other because they’re in close quarters, they’ve only got each other to talk to, and they have this panicked energy that they’re trying to dissipate by fighting with each other. Or you’ve got what I do when I am on the couch underneath a quilt which is freeze, where your body just feels like you are shutting down, you are exhausted, and you’re essentially playing dead because you can’t figure out what to do with the emotions that you’re feeling, with the overwhelming amount of cortisol and adrenaline that you have going through your body because we are in a global state of panic.
WMRA: Do you feel a sense of responsibility – you’ve come out to talk about this issue that you have and you’ve written books about it and you do seminars. Is it weird that people now come to you for advice? Is that kind of like a weight on your shoulders or not?
LJ: I’ve always been really honest about the fact that I’m not an expert. But I have been able to learn from amazing people and I have had the opportunity to gather tools that I find helpful so all I am doing is sharing those.
WMRA: I think a lot of people come to you because you’re going through what they’re going through. And a lot of times when you hear an expert talk you wonder if they’ve ever actually dealt with it themselves, but hearing it from someone going through it makes the other person feel like they’re not alone.
LJ: Time and time again, I hear exactly that. We just want to know that we are not alone. It takes a layer of pain away because we realize ‘oh it’s ok that I am this way. I don’t have to fight with this. I can work with it.’ And that feels a lot better and is honestly a lot more effective.