How to handle coronavirus anxiety
The level of pandemic fear about the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) circulating through our news and social media is getting pretty overwhelming. As information continues to unfold, it's understandable to feel anxious, fearful, helpless, and hypervigilant.
Yes. COVID-19 is a serious health issue being addressed by public health authorities worldwide, but your mental health matters, too. Here are a few simple and effective ways to manage your fears and anxieties as we continue to live amidst crisis and global panic.
1. Get the facts.
It's easy to feel powerless right now. But our uncertainty is what is really driving our anxieties. We don’t understand what this all means and how this global health crisis will affect us and those close to us. Get the facts on the numbers and keep things in perspective. Keep in mind that most coronavirus patients recover. Try to refer only to reputable sources like the WHO and CDC to avoid misinformation since so many other outlets tend draw on catastrophic and sensational stories.
2. Set boundaries.
It's important to stay informed on news, warnings, and updates, but if staying informed is stressing you out, limit the media you're digesting. Consider a social media or news break. Being bombarded every minute by all the updaes of rising numbers is pretty anxiety-provoking. Set the boundaries and parameters that your mental health is craving during chaos.
3. Consider your thoughts.
While anxieties around COVID-19 are valid, we also know that anxiety tends to create overly catastrophic thoughts that are not necessarily truths. Remember that our thoughts generate feelings, so be mindful of the (evolutionary) bias we have towards potential threats. Pay attention to what you may be thinking or saying to yourself and consider whether automatic negative thoughts could be heightening your anxiety. Create more flexibility in your thinking, challenge anxiety-provoking thoughts, and ask yourself if you're creating outcomes or and assumptions based on fact or fear.
4. Prevention matters.
By taking concrete, actionable steps, you can reduce some of this anxiety. Prevention is not just about us as individuals, but our communities as well. Do your part towards social distancing. Take the time to wash your hands as recommended, disinfect your spaces, cover your nose and mouth with your sleeve. You know the drill.
5. Take care of yourself.
Focus on your own needs. Remember to stay connected, nourished, hydrated, rested, and maintain a sense of normalcy. Keep up with your daily responsibilities,
whether that's work or school. Practice grounding techniques, controlled breathing, meditation, or yoga. Stay home, pick up a new book (or two or ten), get a good sweat in, write, dance, draw, paint. Whatever it is that makes you feel gooooood. Do that thing. Good mental health and physical health habits can help us all during stressful times such as this.
If this epidemic feels particularly overwhelming for you, talk about it!
Even though it's v challenging to navigate the stress of a global pandemic, it can also be an opportunity for you to work on building comfort around uncertainty.
And, connecting with a therapist during this time discuss your concerns can help you remain present and grounded to get through your day-to-day. The therapist community is willing and prepared to support during COVID-19.
Most therapist offices have transitioned to virtual sessions for now to do their part towards flattening the curve, but many therapists are still seeing clients online through video appointments. Browse Psychology Today and see what therapists in your state are taking new video clients. And ask your insurance if you have "telehealth benefits" to be able to work with a therapist online.
Social distancing does not mean emotional distancing. Give yourself permission to tend to your emotions and your mental wellbeing during this time, too, just as much as you're taking care of others and meeting your work demands. Things are weird and stressful right now. Be easy on yourself and just do the best you can. It doesn't need to be excessive productivity or being on top of daily self-care. Just do what feels enough. Only you know what that is.
Stay well, friends.