How to Manage Anxiety Related to Coronavirus
Updated: 2 days ago
You may already have some underlying anxiety in your life, and the risk and reality of the coronavirus spread is making your anxiety worse. Heightened anxiety is a very normal and wide-spread response to the escalating media, confirmed cases, and at times hysteria related to this easily-spreadable virus, but it still is very difficult to understand and manage. Perhaps you are having trouble sleeping, or you’re worried that you may run out of toilet paper. Or you’re wondering why you haven’t yet stocked up on food for the next month, or how you will work if your ability to leave your home becomes restricted.
It seems as if daily we are getting more information and more restrictions placed on us and the public due to the coronavirus outbreak, and the worst is not knowing what will come next. While you’re worried that you might catch coronavirus, you’re also worried about how to not catch it. Maybe the same thoughts are going through your head over and over, and you’re not able to stop them, and as a result you end up paralyzed to do anything but read and listen more about the coronavirus. There are some things you can do to help you manage your anxiety during this difficult time. Even though you cannot control the situation, you can control your response to it.
Limit Your Media Exposure
Once a day updated information about the coronavirus is all you need. By limiting your exposure to the media including TV, social media, the radio, and your emails, you will all get the information that you need but not be overwhelmed by every little detail of what is going on, much of which you already know. There is no need to spend hours on Facebook or the computer, looking up more and more information, and perhaps you may want to turn off the evening news at night. There is a balance between being informed and obsessively gathering information that will cause you more anxiety.
Obtain Information from a Reliable Source
It seems that information about the coronavirus is everywhere. Pick a reliable source that is updated daily, and use that one source for the bulk of your information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a good source, or perhaps it’s your local newspaper. Whatever you pick as your reliable source, stick with it and don’t get distracted by all of the other stories and sources out there. Your goal is to limit your thinking about the coronavirus in order to manage your anxiety about it, not to know everything possible about the virus.
Follow Recommended Infection Control Guidelines
Some basic rules to follow to prevent the spread of infections include:
Sanitizing commonly used objects and surfaces
Don’t touch your face
Social distancing – don’t attend large gatherings or meetings, and avoid shared spaces, as much as you are able to.
There is no need to wipe down every surface that you ever touch all day. Just using basic precautions will serve you well in helping to prevent the infection spread.
Do Daily Self-Care
Do the normal things that you do on a daily basis to take care of yourself. Practice good sleep hygiene, eat nutritious food, and exercise daily. Continue to do everything that you would normally do that makes you feel good. This is NOT the time to stop doing your healthy routines, and in fact you need even more self-care during this difficult time.
Mindfulness is the idea of focusing all of your effort and thoughts on what you are doing at this exact moment. So right now, you are reading this article. Instead of trying to scroll through as quickly as you can, just scanning the subheadings, instead really take 3 minutes of your day and really focus on every sentence and absorb the information. Multi-tasking actually contributes to anxiety and “what if” thoughts, while mindfulness combats anxiety. The more time you spend in the present moment practicing mindfulness, the less time you’re spending thinking anxious thoughts about the future.
You do NOT need to run out to the grocery store and get enough food for a month. You will not be left alone to fend for yourself if the spread of the virus worsens. It is unrealistic to imagine a scenario when every person will be unable to leave their homes for any reasons for a long period of time. With anxiety, you may tend to catastrophize situations and the spread of coronavirus is a great opportunity for you to put limits on your anxiety. Instead of thinking that the worse may happen, instead think of how you can help others. Focus on what you are doing, at this particular moment, rather than what may happen in the future.
While the coronavirus risk and public response is real, your anxiety is a figment of your mind. You can control how you think and how you feel, and setting limits with how this situation will control you is the beginning of managing your anxiety around it.
Shannon Heers is a psychotherapist, guest blogger, and owner of Catalyss Counseling in Englewood, CO. Shannon helps adults in professional careers manage anxiety, depression, work-life balance, and grief and loss. Follow Catalyss Counseling on Facebook or LinkedIn.