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Dr. Anne Browning: Tips For Riding The Covid Roller Coaster

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Courtesy University of Washington
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We’re all riding the Covid rollercoaster. Some of us are weathering the ups and downs better than others.

Anne Browning has been guiding University of Washington students through Covid and some of their other issues. Browning is the founding director of her university’s Resilience Lab. Tonight [Wednesday], she will hold a free webinar for people looking for a little stability during these turbulent times.

So you’re feeling anxious these days. Anne Browning thinks that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Anne Browning: “Anxiety is the thing that keeps telling your brain to open a door handle with your elbow, rather than your hand, to not touch your face, to remember to use hand sanitizer when you get wherever you’re going and that anxiety keeps us safe.”

But it can also overwhelm us when there are too many things about which to be anxious. Browning is an assistant dean for Well-Being at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

Anne Browning: “Covid-19 is this macrostressor in our world right now. Even in our lives that have probably been fairly hectic, with a bunch of microstressors that exist all the time. When we add on this layer of macrostressor, it becomes incredibly hard to recover day-to-day and sometimes the smaller microstressors are the things that feel like they overwhelm us.”

Browning will talk tonight about how to sidestep the full impact of the wallop of the coronavirus. That’s part of the Next Generation Lecture Series, sponsored by the UW School of Medicine-Gonzaga Regional Health Partnership. 

Browning says she and her colleagues learned firsthand about coronavirus stresses when the pandemic first hit the Seattle area. Slowly, she says, anxiety began to dissipate.

Anne Browning: “Part of what we saw was people were learning that wearing a facemask and physically distancing, staying a good six feet away from folks, that we can actually manage and mitigate quite a few of the risks of actually contracting Covid-19. It’s still imperfect, but we had actually had quite a bit of control over keeping ourselves safe with good hand hygiene and the rest.”

And speaking of control, Browning says each of us can manage the stress of the coronavirus, in part, by controlling by how much we expose ourselves to the chatter about it.

Anne Browning: “I’ve turned off every notification on my phone so it doesn’t ping at me or buzz at me. It’s basically a paperweight until I want to engage with it and I think that’s been a very healthy change.”

Even after taking those steps, Browning says you may still feel occasional sadness. And she says that’s normal.

Anne Browning: “We’re experiencing the grief of what we’ve lost, the spring, the summer. So many folks should be going through graduations this weekend and next. All of those anticipations, of travel, birthdays, celebrations, weddings. They kind of pass us by on the calendar. They belong to some foregone reality. Recognizing and experiencing that as grief, acknowledging it, kind of helps us shift our focus toward the future and toward what we will build as a new normal moving forward.”

You can attend Anne Browning’s webinar Wednesday at 6 pm, but you need to register first.