Anyone out there feeling anxious about Covid-19? If you’re like most of us, the answer is a resounding ‘YES’! And who can blame you? The current situation is completely overwhelming and no one knows how it will all turn out. It feels like one day you were going about your life, minding your own business, and the next, the world is in a frenzy as everyone is at risk for contracting the Coronavirus.
With 24/7 news and social media, what’s even more contagious than the virus itself is the fear about contracting it. Obsessing about every new case and reading and watching everything you can about what’s happening feeds right into your brain’s fear center. In general, informing yourself is a good thing of course. However, what we are mostly trying to do right now, is to feel some sort of control in this extreme time of uncertainty. Just like buying 100 rolls of toilet paper makes people feel safer, the insatiable quest for news is our irrational way of trying to feel more in control and thereby secure.
Unfortunately, you can end up feeling more and more anxious. It’s a never-ending cycle, really. The more you hear and see, the more you worry and the more anxious you feel. And all that worry will not actually help you cope if you ever have to face the situation that you’re worried about.
So, how can you tame your fear and anxiety? Let’s explore some strategies.
- The obvious first strategy is to limit your news and social media intake. Allow yourself a certain amount of scrolling or news watching. How much is too much differs per person. But once you start noticing your heart rate go up or that you’re feeling anxious inside, you know it’s time to stop, so do so right away.
- If you start to feel panic (i.e. your breathing becomes shallow, your heart starts to race, you feel a surge of adrenaline, you become sweaty): close your eyes and take some slow, deep breaths, all the way in….. and all the way out…… Rapid breathing decreases oxygen to the frontal lobe of your brain and can send you into fight-flight mode. Breathing slowly can stop you from going there.
- If you feel too much panic and slow breathing isn’t helping: get up and move. Do at least 10 jumping jacks or 10 burpees, and reassess how you feel. When you go into fight-flight mode, you have lots of energy to literally fight or flight, so if you use that energy by moving your body intensely, your body can return to a state of calm (once you rest after your workout).
- Try to notice the small things in life that bring you joy: biting into a juicy strawberry, taking a hot shower, a beautiful painting on your wall, the various instruments that you hear as you listen to music, the way your child smiles at you. Live in the moment. Now that our day-to-day lives have slowed down, you can be more mindful of the moment you are in, right now.
- Take comfort from the fact that we are all in the same boat. No one knows what the future holds, we are all feeling anxious, and no one wants to be in this situation. But now that we are, let’s take comfort from knowing that people worldwide are working non stop trying to protect us all. Stay safe by following the measures that are put in place by the government, but know that there is a limit to what you can do, so accept that. You cannot wrap yourself in protective bubble wrap and never leave the house. Some risk needs to be taken, even if there ends up being a lockdown.
- Practice social distancing, but not social isolation. Keep in touch with family and friends by calling or Skyping them. Loneliness always increases anxiety. So don’t allow yourself to loose touch with people.
- Watch your caffeine intake because it increases your heart rate, which gives a big boost to your anxiety. Don’t drink too much alcohol. Alcohol gives the illusion of relaxation but in reality it can increase anxiety (and other mental health problems such as depression).
- If you are in treatment for anxiety or another mental health disorder, do not stop your treatment. Telehealth sessions are being offered by most care providers. If you are not in treatment, but feel like your panic or anxiety is overwhelming you, please seek counseling.
There are plenty of other strategies that can be helpful now, such as sleeping enough, drinking plenty of water, eating healthfully. Please add anything else below that has been helpful for you.