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Don't let coronavirus drive you crazy, says Billings mental-health expert

Stay informed, but don't let anxiety take over
Posted at 10:41 PM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-11 16:22:27-04

BILLINGS — People with anxiety disorder may have their heads spinning with the daily updates about coronavirus, but Billings mental-health experts said Tuesday it's important to not worry about things outside one's control.

“I personally think the first thing folks ought to do is don’t try to control something you have no control over. I think it makes more sense for people to focus on things they do have control over,” said Barbara Mettler, the executive director at the Mental Health Center in Billings.

The Mental Health Center is a nonprofit clinic that provides mental health services in Billings and 10 surrounding counties, serving cities like Roundup, Red Lodge, Columbus, Lewistown and Columbus.

While the number of coronavirus cases has risen above 1,000 nationwide, including about two dozen deaths, no confirmed cases have been reported in Montana or Wyoming.

So what does one person have control over when it comes to coronavirus, also called COVID-19?

Mettler said actions like hand washing, sanitizing surfaces and being aware of personal contact with other people are all controllable. This makes them better things to focus on, rather than worrying about the outbreak of the virus.

"Focus on something other than the coronavirus. Maybe go out and take a walk and get your mind somewhere else. There are all kinds of things that we can do to take care of ourselves that we can do in this situation too," Mettler said.

Digging into a good book or engaging in favorite hobbies are other activities that can put the mind at ease, Mettler said.

“When you work with someone who has anxiety, you teach them ways to cope and how to distract their thinking," Mettler said.

Mettler said staying away from the things that raise anxiety, like constant social media scrolling, can help too. She has faith in the good hearts of Montanans to help each other out when the virus comes to Montana.

“I just think it’s really important that people stay informed, and stay with what they can control. Because if these things happen, they happen. But I also know that we live in Montana and we help our neighbors. I don’t think people need to be worried or afraid that they won’t have enough (supplies). There will always be someone here who will help," Mettler said.