Health Tips: Don’t let situational anxiety become chronic


Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Mike Roizen

Kevin Love, a power forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers, is a five-time All-Star, and he won an NBA championship with the Cavs in 2016. Sound like a formula for cool confidence? Think again. “For 29 years,” wrote Love, “I thought about mental health as someone else’s problem. Sure, I knew on some level that some people benefited from asking for help ... I just never thought it was for me.” An anxiety attack during a game with the Hawks helped convinced him otherwise. 

In this era of hyperanxiety related to COVID-19 and economic hardships, it’s important to not let situational or temporary anxiety become chronic. When you encounter a situation that causes you to become anxious (say getting into an elevator with others), you may feel your pulse speed up or experience nausea, difficulty breathing and dizziness. But, say researchers in a new study in Nature Scientific Reports, you want to be able to defuse that response so it doesn’t morph into a pattern of repetitive, self-generated negative thoughts. 

If you’re feeling anxiety more frequently these days, try these steps: 

 -- Engage in physical exercise: 300 minutes of aerobics and strength training weekly.

-- Consider cognitive behavioral therapy to help tamp down fears.

 -- Talk to your doctor about getting a diagnosis and medications to help defuse anxiety. 

-- Practice mindfulness and applied relaxation like deep breathing. Check out the Breathe by Dr. Jud app, a free mind-calming app for iPhone and iPad. 

Disclosure: The app’s developer is owned by Sharecare, which assists in the production of this column. Dr. Jud Brewer (www.drjud.com) serves as executive medical director of behavioral health at Sharecare.  

Unmasking the
effectiveness of masks

During the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, Americans were warned that “spit spreads death.” One announcement in the San Francisco Chronicle read: “The man or woman or child who will not wear a mask now is a dangerous slacker.” The more things change, the more they stay the same! 

In a recent JAMA paper, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention affirms that cloth face coverings are an effective way to fight the virus, particularly when they’re worn by everyone. They also recently published a case study of a hair salon in which both stylists were infected with COVID-19, but not one of their 139 clients contracted the virus. Why? In large measure, because everyone wore masks. 

Masks are more likely to be worn if government leadership encourages it. (It’s mandated or recommended in more than 160 countries.) But failing that, it’s up to you to advocate for and practice their consistent and effective use. Here are some tips on how to do that:

-- Wash your hands before putting on your mask.

-- Place your mask securely over your nose and mouth, and under your chin.

-- Take it off correctly. Handle it only by the strings or elastic; wash your hands immediately after removing it.

-- Wash your reusable cloth mask -- ideally, after each wearing -- in the washing machine or soak it in hot, soapy water for at least five minutes, rinse well. For N95 masks, use dry heat at 158 F for one hour, and they will remain protective. Disposable, blue surgical masks cannot be laundered or cleaned.

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