6 Ways to Manage Anxiety During the Coronavirus Outbreak.
by, Synergy eTherapy Staff
Coronavirus (COVID 19)
Everyone has been talking about the Coronavirus pandemic, otherwise known as COVID-19. It’s all over the news. And the country is feeling the impact of social distancing, quarantines, and stay-at-home orders. We now know how serious this disease is and how rapidly it spreads. We know that certain populations are at a greater risk of contracting the virus, but no one is immune to it. In fact, you can have symptoms of Coronavirus and not even know it. Ultimately, this global pandemic is impacting our health, the economy, and our way of life.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). Novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.”
Common symptoms mimic a common cold or the flu, with respiratory symptoms such as a cough, fever, shortness of breath, or trouble breathing.
As more and more confirmed cases start popping up all around us and the media continues to publish the daily death toll this has taken on our country, our anxiety has naturally increased.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is like worry on caffeine. Anxiety is our brain’s way of letting us know that something is unsafe, dangerous, or potentially harmful/deadly. We are biologically programmed to fight for our survival. So, we don’t like things to disrupt our safe, consistent routine. COVID-19 has done this. It’s turned out lives upside down.
Anxiety is adaptive. If we sense danger (even perceived danger), our brain perks up and gets our body ready for action to fight, run or freeze. This is how we protect ourselves and those we love.
Anxiety is only good until it reaches a certain level. Because anxiety motivates us and keeps us safe, it works great for short bursts and in specific situations. What happens when we are overly anxious for too long of a time? It’s different for everyone. But, if we are too anxious, it no longer helps us, and it can begin to interfere with our daily life. It may cause us to be distant, to avoid certain situations or people, become depressed, or develop panic attacks.
When we enter an unknown situation like a global viral pandemic, fears run wild. We have little past experience on what to expect, how things may change (humans hate change!), and the future impact on our health and way of life.
It’s okay to be anxious during this time, it helps us become prepared to take on a threat to our existence. Yet, we still don’t know what will happen in our country or in our state. For our own mental health, and the mental health of our children looking up to us, we must find ways to use both our emotions and logic to stay in the WISE mind (to learn more about “wise mind”, look up Dialectical Behavior Therapy- DBT).
Next, Synergy eTherapists will discuss 6 ways to stay grounded in unknown times of distress.
We must have anxiety during this time, as it helps us become prepared to take on a threat to our existence.
6 Ways to Manage Anxiety During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic:
Reduce your preoccupation with Coronavirus on the news.
Coronavirus is undeniably a major topic of discussion in the news. But constantly listening to updates and reading stories may lead to increased anxiety. It’s also important to know which news sources are giving you accurate information so you’re not distressed over news that isn’t even true. Limit your news consumption. You can stay informed without becoming preoccupied. The WHO is a great resource as is the CDC.
Turn off the TV when eating a meal with your family. And, turn off alerts from news outlets on your phone. Set aside one or two times a day (if needed) to look at credible news sources. Then, you can function throughout the rest of your day at school, work, or home without constantly wondering what will happen next.
Know your own risk of catching Coronavirus.
We now know that people of all ages, genders, socioeconomic statuses, and races can get COVID 19. However, we know that certain populations have a greater risk of developing severe complications. Those who are at a greater risk for experiencing a severe Coronavirus illness are older people and those with preexisting health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes. If you fall into one or more of those categories, continue to follow the government and your doctor’s advice on how to protect yourself.
Remember, just because you may fall into the high-risk category does NOT mean you will catch it. And if you do, it does NOT mean that you will die. It’s important to keep a rational mind about statistics.
Use correct preventative methods.
While you can’t control the spread of Coronavirus, you can control how you respond to this situation. The CDC recommends these everyday actions to prevent the spread of illness:
- PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING
- Follow the guidelines put in place by the federal government, state government, and your local authorities
- Clean your hands often
- Avoid touching your face with unclean hands
- Stay home as much as possible and limit your outings to essential activities
- Wear a mask or face-covering in public areas
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily
To learn more about their guidelines, visit the CDC webpage.
This is a big life lesson of learning to control what we can and accept what we cannot. Germs spread. It’s actually incredible if you think about it, how much our bodies can take on a daily basis with the germs we come into contact with. Our bodies are resilient and self-repair constantly. We know what we need to do to do our best in controlling the spread of all germs.
Create a plan of action.
Talk with those in your household about ways you can reduce your anxiety. Everyone needs to work together to stay sane. Now that many schools and daycares are closed and many Americans are working from home, this is more important than ever. Come up with a schedule and a plan for your day. Consider things like activities, chores, and household responsibilities in your plan of action.
Also, if it helps, you can stock up on some necessary supplies like toilet paper, medications, canned and boxed foods, frozen foods, and other supplies that you may need if in your home for 2-4 weeks. Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. This is true in times of uncertainty and can really slow the rise of anxiety.
Recognize that it’s normal to be worried about the Coronavirus.
Since we do not yet know everything about Coronavirus, it’s definitely ok to be worried. Having some anxiety might even encourage you to take extra preventative measures (like washing your hands more than usual). This will, in turn, will reduce your risk of getting sick. However, stressing over the fact that you’re anxious will only make the cycle worse.
Stress increases cortisol and other hormones that make us eat poorly and sleep less. This can lead to being physically and emotionally run down, with or without the Coronavirus.
These are always good tips in times of stress:
- Get enough rest. Without enough sleep, our brain/body won’t function optimally.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Try to avoid the extra sugar and carbs and stock up on veggies and whole foods.
- Get outside. We need some fresh air and nature to help ease anxiety.
- Move your body. Even just running up and down the stairs, going for a walk around the block or doing a dance party with your kids at home can improve mood.
- Yoga or Meditation can calm a busy mind. Start doing this with your children or partner/spouse, have fun with relaxation. Make it part of your day.
- Stay connected. Even while we’re social distancing, we need to remain connected (at least emotionally) to those we love.
- Power in the Pause. Start to listen to your body. Most of the time, our body knows what we are feeling before “we” know! Stop, breathe, listen, and be gentle with yourself.
Talk to a mental health provider…Virtually!
If your anxiety about Coronavirus is surpassing what you can handle, a little therapy won’t hurt. Anxiety often arises during times of uncertainty, but that’s when it’s most important to keep mentally healthy. Therapy can help you manage anxiety about many different things.
In today’s world, tele-mental health (otherwise known as online therapy or eTherapy) allows people to access mental health therapy from the germ-free comfort of their own home or surroundings! Why Wait? Get a Free Consultation with one of our Synergy eTherapists today!
Having excessive anxiety about the Coronavirus will lead to more harm than good. Use preventative methods, make a plan, and know that you’re going to be okay. Always remember that help is available if you need it, for both your physical and mental needs.
Begin Online Therapy with Synergy eTherapy:
At Synergy eTherapy we specialize in telemental health or online therapy. It’s all we do! We understand how to support our clients through challenging times such as a global pandemic. To begin online therapy in your state, follow these steps: