Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Is COVID-19 worsening your anxiety? Is it possible to find love in the time of social distancing?

DEAR NATALIE:My anxiety has kicked into high gear over the coronavirus. I live alone and am a very social person. I am not doing well with being inside all day long, although I know how lucky I am to be able to work from home. Is there anything you can recommend to help combat my anxiety? I watch Netflix, read books and call my friends, but nothing is really helping. I just feel incredibly stressed and depressed. — ONE IS THE LONELIEST NUMBER

DEAR ONE IS THE LONELIEST NUMBER: You are not alone in feeling this way. There are many people who have anxiety and it is only heightened when experiencing prolonged isolation. It can be scary to be lost in your thoughts, especially if they become obsessive. Here are some ideas for combating anxiety other than the ways you have already tried:

• Mindful movement. Whether this means streaming a yoga class, trying a meditation app or simply taking a walk in solitude in nature, moving your body can help alleviate stress and release endorphins.

• Journaling. It can really help to reduce tensions once you get your thoughts on paper and out of your head.

• Reduce your caffeine intake. If you are a coffee lover, you may not even realize caffeine could be raising your anxiety levels. Try cutting it down or out and see how you feel after a few days.

• Make a list of local businesses or charities to support. If you can spare $5 or $10 donations, send them what you can. Doing something for someone else can often help get us out of our own heads and feel productive.

• Try a new recipe using food already in your pantry or fridge. Not a cook? This is a perfect time to learn. YouTube is full of how-to recipes and there are a ton of food channels that can provide inspiration. Love to cook? Let your creativity be sparked and come up with a yummy dish that you can enjoy while watching something that makes you laugh. Share the recipe online with your friends and family.

The most important thing: Keep reaching out to friends or family. FaceTime or Skype if you have the capability, or at least pick up the phone to connect. Humans are social creatures and to self-isolate is unnatural for many of us. But you are doing the right thing in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19. The sooner we all get on board, the sooner we can put this behind us and give our friends and families real-life hugs again.

DEAR NATALIE:  What are your thoughts about online dating right now during the coronavirus? My friends think I am absolutely crazy for wanting to date, but I feel like this could be a great time to meet someone, as everyone is being pushed online. — FOUND LOVE IN A HOPELESS PLACE

DEAR FOUND LOVE IN A HOPELESS PLACE:This question made me laugh because it got me to thinking about the new “Love is Blind” reality dating show on Netflix — single people were put in a situation where they went on dates but couldn’t see each other until one of them proposed marriage. Makes for great reality television, but I’m not so sure about real-life relationships. Online dating could be a fun way to pass the time. You can’t meet in person until things calm down, so long phone conversations or social media chats may force you to get to know them without actually seeing them. Who knows? Maybe you will find the love of your life and regale your grandkids with how you found love during a great time of social isolation. Sounds pretty romantic to me!

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Networking moves online right now, so stay in tune with what is happening with friends and colleagues through media apps and video chats. It’s a great time to update your resume and make a list of people you want to connect with once it is safe to be social in the real world!

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, nbencivenga@post-gazette.com; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)