“Sam,” my boyfriend says quietly. “Life still has to go on. And we need food.”

I know that they’re right. We’d held out in self-quarantine for as long as we could. Now, staring down nearly empty cupboards, it was time to put some social distancing into practice and restock.

Except the idea of leaving our car during a pandemic felt like literal torture.

“I’d rather starve, honestly,” I groan.

I’ve had obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) most of my life, but it’s reached a fever pitch (pun not intended) during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Touching anything feels like willingly placing my hand over a stove burner. Breathing the same air as anyone near me feels like inhaling a death sentence.

And I’m not just afraid of other people, either. Because carriers of the virus can appear asymptomatic, I’m even more fearful of unknowingly spreading it to someone’s beloved Nana or immunocompromised friend.

With something as serious as a pandemic, my OCD being activated right now makes a lot of sense.

In a way, it’s like my brain is trying to protect me.

The trouble is, it’s not actually helpful to — for example — avoid touching a door in the same place twice, or refuse to sign a receipt because I’m convinced the pen will kill me.

And it’s definitely not helpful to insist on starving rather than buying more food.

Like my boyfriend said, life still has to go on.

And while we should absolutely follow shelter-in-place orders, wash our hands, and practice social distancing, I think they were onto something when they said, “Sam, picking up your medication is not optional.”

In other words, there’s a difference between being cautious and being disordered.

These days, it can be difficult to tell which of my panic attacks are “reasonable” and which ones are just an extension of my OCD. But for now, the most important thing is to find ways of coping with my anxiety regardless.

Here’s how I’m keeping my OCD panic at bay:

1. I’m bringing it back to basics

The best way I know of to fortify my health — both mentally and physically — is to keep myself fed, hydrated, and rested. While this seems obvious, I’m continually surprised by how much the basics fall to the wayside when a crisis pops up.

If you’re struggling to keep up with your basic human maintenance, I have some tips for you:

  • Are you remembering to eat? Consistency is important. Personally, I aim to eat every 3 hours (so, 3 snacks and 3 meals each day — this is pretty standard for anyone who struggles with disordered eating, like I do). I use a timer on my phone and each time I eat, I reset it for another 3 hours to simplify the process.
  • Are you remembering to drink water? I have a glass of water with every meal and snack. That way, I don’t have to remember water separately — my food timer then also serves as a water reminder.
  • Are you sleeping enough? Sleep can be super hard, especially when anxiety is high. I’ve been using the podcast Sleep With Me to ease into a more restful state. But really, you can’t go wrong with a quick refresher on sleep hygiene.

And if you find yourself stressed and stuck during the day and aren’t sure what to do? This interactive quiz is a lifesaver (bookmark it!).