From the desk of the EMD: “Coronavirus Anxiety Syndrome”

March 30, 2020

When I wrote my editorial on COVID-19 for the College Insider on March 2nd, I was hopefully optimistic that we would not be seeing what we are unfortunately seeing now. Due to this pandemic, we all know the meaning of social distancing, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), shelter in place, and flattening the curve. Who would have thought that a Board-certified allergist/immunologist would be the rock star of the COVID-19 crisis? All over the internet, we read praises for “Saint Tony” and “Fauci for President.” How does he do it at 79 years of age? He is the beacon of truth for all of us in this emergency. Someone we can count on to not play politics in a life-and-death situation. Please stay safe, Dr. Fauci. We are all pulling for you.

No doubt you are worried about your family and friends. You may be asking, “How will my allergy practice survive if this virus shuts down everything for weeks or months?” and “What about my staff? How do I pay all the bills?” I don’t have answers to these questions, but our patients need us and we will persevere. The College is working hard to provide all of the information possible to help you during this time.

I do want to speculate on some changes we will see in allergy practices due to this pandemic. Every allergist will be capable of telemedicine. We will learn how to make virtual visits an integral part of daily work. The stress from this crisis will lead to more consolidation in allergy practices. It has been getting increasingly difficult to keep a private allergy practice viable and this shock has just added to the hassle of keeping a practice alive.

How do we keep sane in this insane time? I like staycations, but this is taking it to the extreme. Do you have “Coronavirus Anxiety Syndrome” or “CAS?” I wonder if I can copyright this malady. Here are some things that you can do to control CAS:

  1. Turn off the TV news and internet feeds on COVID-19. Yes, you need to keep up to date, but the constant listening and reading about the climbing incidence and death from COVID-19 just adds to your anxiety. Limit your time to 30 minutes a day. Don’t read or watch the COVID-19 news right before bed, as this could lead to sleep difficulties.
  2. Exercise. This has been made more difficult with gyms closing, especially if you don’t have a Peloton at home. The good news is that you don’t need a treadmill, you can go run or walk outside. There are lots of workout videos on the internet that you can do. I belong to Planet Fitness. They have live-streaming workout videos on their Facebook page daily at 7:00 pm ET. The videos are accessible to everyone, even non-members, and once the live stream is finished, the video remains on the Facebook page. Another great workout on YouTube is by Inger Houghton.
  3. Mindfulness Meditation. One of the best ways to fight CAS is with relaxation exercises through meditation. These techniques can help you to reduce fear and panic associated with coronavirus. There are several apps that are available to help you with relaxation and teach different meditation techniques, such as Calm, Insight Timer, and Headspace. Harvard Health has six relaxation techniques to reduce stress. This is a great place to start. Give it a try.
  4. Support Systems. Even though you must embrace social distancing, you can still support your friends and family. You can have virtual visits by internet, phone calls, messaging, and FaceTime to remain connected with the outside world. It was my oldest grandson’s birthday this week. My wife and I could not visit him and go to dinner, but a FaceTime visit made it better. Of course, this is not as good as face-to-face interaction, but it can still help all of us cope and not feel so isolated. And finding ways to help others in your community can brighten the day as well.

I wish I could tell you when this nightmare will be over. All I know is that it will come to an end. In the meantime, please stay well and remember to wash your hands.