One month into social distancing, none of us is immune to the anxiety created by an unimaginable situation of fighting a powerful and threatening enemy that we cannot see or touch. So if you have found that you are having bizarre dreams, join the club! Whether you are single and live alone, or have a partner or other family, anxiety and depressive thoughts are now to be expected.

What triggers anxiety? It is an automatic response, and not something we choose to bring on. It is the body and mind’s response to what is perceived as a threat to the physical and/or mental state of our being. With COVID-19, there is the possibility that we may be both physically and mentally infected to the point of death, so no wonder that all systems signal an alert. We may feel that unsettled sense in the stomach, not like the anticipatory excitement of something exciting coming on, but the dread that says, be careful. Have you touched an infected surface? Have you washed your hands? Even if you have been at home all day, or did take all precautions, at night, when the brain is sifting through all of day’s data, it sorts out the feelings and hence, the anxiety. Most commonly, there is the classic anxiety dream of being stark naked in public. For me, the usual is being at the airport about to board and realizing I don’t have my passport! But these days, I hear and read about a new genre: Corona-dreams. Waking up thinking you are on a ventilator. Dreaming about hearing a diagnosis. Or other bizarre collection of events.

To add to this level of anxiety, we are also missing the contact comfort of hugging, cuddling, and even shaking hands if one lives alone. Families are greeting members from a distance. Friends are longing for getting together, sharing a meal or participating in sports. Parents have to deal with homeschooling.

All of this creates stress and less tolerance of conflict and disagreements. No wonder that calls to divorce lawyers have increased. When we feel burdened, it comes out as irritability, snapping at one another and being short.

It will be our task to remember that we are in this together, that we will get through it as a family or community, and we need to remind ourselves to be kinder and gentler with one another. Just as relationship problems are on the rise, so is a whole slew of positive and generous deeds on the increase. A father and daughter pay for over 30 people’s groceries last week. Jose Andres of World Central Kitchen feeds zillions. Some guy in Safeway pointed me to an available self-check station which I was unable to see. Let’s be good to ourselves and to one another. Be safe and stay well.

Author Profile

Janan Broadbent, PhD
Janan Broadbent, PhD
As a psychologist in private practice since 1979, Janan Broadbent, Ph. D. offers individual, couples, group and family therapy, in addition to conducting workshops on topics such as stress management, communication skills and assertiveness. She writes about current issues relevant to relationship building and conflict resolution in LGBTQ and minority populations, with emphasis on health, fitness and education.

Born in Turkey, Dr. Broadbent earned her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1965. At that time, first as a Fulbright Scholar, then as a CENTO Fellow, she received her master's and doctorate degrees in psychology and education from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology at St.Mary's College of Maryland, Mt. Vernon College in Washington, D. C., Johns Hopkins University and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. From 1981 to 1988, she was also the Director of Counseling at Notre Dame College.
While in graduate school, Dr. Broadbent worked for the Voice of America radio program, writing and recording materials on the cross-cultural college experience. She has been interviewed on various news programs on TV and has received media training.
Dr. Broadbent is a member of the American Psychological Association and has served as the chair for the Public Affairs Board and as a member of the Executive Council of the Maryland Psychological Association.
Dr. Broadbent's office is located at:
Village of Cross Keys, 120 West Quadrangle, 2 Hamill Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21210-1847 phone: 410-825-5577