In the psychological thriller novel The Woman in the Window, the main character had agoraphobia and could not leave her house due to her disorder. Given everything that’s happened in the past year until today, the novel seems like a prescient look at what many germaphobes must be going through, especially as the organization Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that there has been an influx of coronavirus-related anxiety among people who live in the United States.
If you suffer from the fear of germs and find yourself even more anxious due to current circumstances, here are some practical tips and pointers to help protect your mental health during this time.
Practice healthy lifestyle habits.
One of the best ways to protect our mental health—germaphobe or not—is to care for our physical health. Some practices you cannot neglect include:
- Getting enough sleep, at least 7 to 9 hours per night.
- Finding ways to stay active throughout your day. Try to stretch and move your body for at least 15 minutes per day. It doesn’t matter what workout you do; even something as simple as playing with your kids and pets can be a big help. Just find ways to move your body throughout the day.
- Make smart food choices. Studies show that plenty of foods can help reduce anxiety, including yogurt, turmeric, eggs, Brazil nuts, and fatty fish. On the flip side, you might want to avoid foods and drinks that are natural stimulants and can help aggravate anxious thoughts, like coffee, energy drinks, and processed food.
Take time out of your day to do some relaxation techniques.
Starting your day right is also one of the key ways to keep anxiety at bay. Make a habit of waking up early and starting your morning with deep breathing exercises. The most basic one is easy and something you can practice even when you’re sitting on your office desk:
- Step 1: Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing the air to reach your chest.
- Step 2: Exhale the breath slowly through your mouth, with a relaxed jaw and slightly pursed lips.
- Step 3: Repeat this process for however long until you start to feel better.
You can also practice other relaxation strategies like yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and even praying. Just start your day with some process to center and ground your mind and body.
Employ healthy cleaning techniques.
When people fear germs, they tend to over-clean and over-wash their hands, and even letting these fears and worries get in the way of normal functioning. Some even develop blisters in their hands because they can’t stop washing and rubbing them.
While we live in a time when cleaning and washing our hands are something we need to do regularly, we need not do so at the expense of our daily routines and proper functioning. Here are some healthy cleaning habits you can employ:
- Hire professional cleaners to deep clean your home every few months, and you and your family can do the regular dust-up yourself.
- If you’re a business owner, hire professional commercial cleaning companies to clean your workplace once in a while. They have tools that can help truly get rid of germs and viruses that you are worried about.
- Wash your hands only after eating or after you have touched high-touch surfaces, packages, and other items that other people have touched. Bring a small bottle of alcohol-based sanitizer with you so that you don’t feel the need to run to the toilet to wash your hands every hour.
Don’t hesitate to seek professional help.
Germaphobia is one of the many symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). But just because you’re a germaphobe, it doesn’t automatically mean you have OCD—just that there may be a chance for it.
When your obsession with being contaminated by germs, bacteria, viruses, and other harmful microorganisms is already taking over your daily life and actions, and if you find yourself acting out certain rituals like wiping down every surface you see to relieve your anxiety, you might have reached a point where the help of a mental health professional will be beneficial. They can help provide you with tools to help you navigate this difficult time, and in some cases, they can even provide medication for it.
Understanding what’s going on with us when we have fears and anxiety is crucial to addressing it, so don’t hesitate to ask for professional help if you feel like you need it. We’re all just trying to do our best during the pandemic, and the effort to find healing and wholeness is always worth it.