The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is a stressful challenge for all of us. It has introduced new concerns about our health, the health of our loved ones, our way of life for the moment, our personal financial situation, the economy as a whole, and our government and healthcare system’s ability to respond to everything that may come. Our routines and daily lives have been disrupted, we’re doing our best to stay physically isolated from others, and there’s much uncertainty about the present and the near future.
This is a struggle for everybody, unlike any we’ve seen in our lifetime. But for people with anxiety disorders—or who are prone to significant spikes in anxiety during stressful situations—current events are particularly hard to cope with. This can potentially take an enormous toll on quality of life and on mental, emotional, and physical health.
Here’s some advice for managing anxiety during the COVID-19 outbreak. Even if you don’t have an anxiety disorder, or even if you don’t believe this situation could take a serious toll on you, we’re all susceptible to the stress created by the coronavirus pandemic and liable to feel overwhelmed at times. It’s in everyone’s best interest to find ways to limit and cope with the negative effects of what’s happening in our world today.
So please, everyone, take steps for managing anxiety during the COVID-19 outbreak. Take care of yourself, and we will get through this together.
Keeping Anxiety in Check During the COVID-19 Outbreak
- Limit your exposure to the news. It’s essential to stay informed. But the constant barrage of reminders about what’s going on and the reasons to worry—especially on social media—is a major trigger for stress and anxiety. With news breaking so often, we easily get sucked into trying to keep up around the clock. This is extremely damaging to anyone’s mental and emotional health over time, and quite quickly for those who struggle with anxiety. Take breaks from the TV, social media, or wherever else you get your news, and consider creating a schedule of checking in once or twice a day, or maybe even less often if necessary.
- Stay in touch with friends and family. “Social distancing” isn’t the same thing as cutting ourselves off from each other. While it’s crucial that we all stay home as much as possible right now, we don’t have to be out of contact with our loved ones. Use video chat technology to have spoken conversations while seeing people. Texting is a good option, but make actual phone calls to hear each other’s voices and have livelier conversations. Play games together online. We can all take strength and welcome distractions from the people in our lives, and we should.
- Find constructive ways to distract yourself. It’s easy to think obsessively about the pandemic. But one of the best ways of managing anxiety during the COVID-19 outbreak is to take our minds off it by enjoying and enriching ourselves. Watch light and funny shows and movies. Read books you’ve never gotten to; here’s a roundup of places you can get lots of free public domain e-books and audio books. Find forums and groups online dedicated to a hobby and make new friends (but if the conversation is centered on the outbreak for now, it may be better to hold off). Check out the many websites offering free online courses and learn about something you’ve always been interested, or that could help your career.
- Don’t argue about the pandemic or recommended measures for responding. Some of us have relatives who still refuse to accept the gravity of the situation, and many of us see it on social media or other places online. While it’s helpful to spread reliable information—and we should all encourage others to act responsibly—it’s not beneficial for people with anxiety to get pulled into arguments. Steer clear of coronavirus-related conflicts, and if you have family or friends pressuring you to get together, simply explain why you won’t, ask them to please respect your decision to follow social distancing recommendations for now and in the near future, encourage them to do the same, and disengage from the conversation.
- Create a family plan at home. Many of us are spending a lot more time in close quarters with our spouses, partners, and/or children. This can be trying enough on its own, but when you add in the stress of the situation and some stir-craziness, it’s a recipe for conflict and increasing anxiety. Things may be further complicated if anyone is now working from home. Establish boundaries to ensure people get their alone time, and, in a two-parent home, create a schedule for child care during work hours. Play games and watch things together, and try to be extra sensitive to people’s stress during these times.
- Take regular steps to keep stress in check. While the above suggestions are specific to managing anxiety during the COVID-19 outbreak, don’t forget about everyday ways to manage stress and anxiety. Use the ideas provided by this link that are safe and applicable in the current situation. Getting outside for a short walk every day is a particularly important one while we have to spend so much time in our homes. Also through this link, you’ll find additional links to learn how to get started with meditation, deep breathing, and relaxation exercises, which can be very beneficial these days (and any others!).
- Seek help if you need it. Even if your mental healthcare provider’s offices are currently closed for in-office visits (or you don’t want to go/can’t go because you are in quarantine), telephone and/or video chat appointments should be available. If you don’t already have a provider, find one accepting new patients. Talking to a professional can be extremely helpful in a time like this, and they can give you personalized advice for managing anxiety during the COVID-19 outbreak. They can also evaluate whether medication would be a good idea.