'Red Table Talk' addresses coronavirus anxiety: 'People are literally waking up in the middle of the night and having panic attacks'

Yahoo Celebrity

Last week Jada Pinkett Smith called an emergency session of Red Table Talk to address the coronavirus pandemic. This Wednesday, the actress released the second instalment of her coronavirus-inspired series for Facebook Watch, this time tackling the topic of mental health and how the current health crisis can trigger anxiety.

While last week’s discussion featured the majority of the Smith brood — including husband Will Smith and stepson Trey Smith, but not son Jaden Smith, who is social distancing away from his family — Part 2 features the original Red Table Talk trio: Pinkett-Smith, daughter Willow Smith and mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris, a.k.a. Gammy.

Jada Pinkett Smith leads her family in another coronavirus discussion on <em>Red Table Talk</em>.
Jada Pinkett Smith leads her family in another coronavirus discussion on Red Table Talk.
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Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist, and motivational speaker and “modern-day monk,” as Pinkett Smith put it, Jay Shetty joined the group to offer tactics on coping during such a fraught time.

“Never born have we in the mental health profession taken on something of this magnitude,” Durvasula shared. “It’s all hands on deck.”

She went on to note that many of her patients are “struggling,” as coronavirus concerns have become a “multiplier” to those already suffering from anxiety.

“People are literally waking up in the middle of the night and having panic attacks,” she added later in the episode. “And it’s not just about the virus — it’s about jobs, and money, and future and family. People are thinking catastrophically.”

Pinkett Smith and her relatives asked the experts to share their coping strategies, while fans of the show aired their own concerns — ranging from keeping kids healthy, to managing stress — in video messages.

Shetty said that asking himself how he can be of service during trying times helps him feel a semblance of control. He also suggested leaving voice notes to yourself, simply to let out and acknowledge any stress-inducing thoughts, and to be thoughtful about setting boundaries with others.

“We have to be careful with whose pain and how much pain we can take on and feel the weight of,” he said, explaining that in modern-day society, situations like the coronavirus pandemic can be amplified because people are exposed to so many opinions and experiences. (“That’s a lot of pain to process,” he pointed out.)

Durvasula, meanwhile, stressed the importance of maintaining a routine, getting plenty of rest, staying in virtual contact with loved ones and doing “acceptance work” on things that are out of one’s control.

She also pushed back against the shaming she sees on social media as people mourn missing out on weddings and graduation ceremonies due to the pandemic.

“It’s OK to normalize that any reaction at this point is really OK,” she offered. “Don’t judge your reaction.

“It’s OK to grieve,” she added of those disappointed by canceled events and missed milestones. “There is no loss too small.”

She suggested crying it out to cope, or confiding in a trusted confidant.

Later, Shetty led the women in a breathing exercise, and shared his 5-4-3-2-1 sensory technique — in which he tastes one thing, smells two things, and so on — as a way to bring him into the present rather than fixating on what if.

The full episode can be viewed above or on Facebook Watch.

For the latest news on the evolving coronavirus outbreak, follow along here. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC and WHO’s resource guides. 

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