For centuries, humans have struggled with the demands of things like work, family, relationships, and school. At times, the weight of these demands have gotten the better of us causing mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Yet, in our current climate, there is a surge of undue stress and anxiety that has to do with a new threat to our already stressful daily lives.
As a result of the current pandemic, there’s a lot of uncertainty. We are all trying to adjust to the continuing information regarding the impact this virus may have to our physical health as well as the restrictions placed on our daily lives and within our communities. We can feel isolated and out of control. It’s for these reasons, coronavirus aka COVID-19 anxiety can be very real.
While we have medical and government systems working hard to lead us towards a direction of preservation and safety, the ways in which we will get there might be tough. Social distancing is being enacted and while this might be vital in protecting our physical health it is also having an impact on our mental health and well-being. People with pre-existing health issues and/or mental health issues are particularly susceptible to increased symptoms.
Now more than ever, it is important we maintain emotional connection and support for our mental health.
Some signs you might be experiencing anxiety are:
Racing and/or negative thoughts
Here are steps you can take to help mitigate the heightened anxiety you might feel.
1) While this might seem like commonplace for some, it may still be important to mention: Adhere to the recommendations and protocols advised by the CDC and WHO such as hand washing, social distancing, etc. We’re less likely to feel anxious about being infected or being a carrier to those we love if we are taking care of our physical health and in an environment we know is safe such as our own homes. (For details on this you may read recommendations by clicking the link).
2) Feeling out of control can bring on a lot of anxiety. Remind yourself what is within your control and take steps to empower yourself in these areas. Some examples of this are daily self-care practices (mindfulness, meditation, diagrammatic breathing, yoga, social connection via phone or video calls, nutrition, and hygiene are all things you can do for yourself.
3) Create a routine. Routine can help us create a sense of normalcy and what to expect in more turbulent and anxious times. Even just keeping a routine 3 or 4 days out of the week can help. If you usually go for a workout before or after work, you can still practice this in your home (or if permitted in your local neighborhood while practicing social distancing).
4) Engage in nourishing activities. Like reading, writing, painting, etc? You can still participate in these activities and should! Keeping your mind engaged with enjoyable activities can help stifle anxiety that might come from focusing on the current state of events.
5) Speaking of current events, limit the amount of time you give to the news. While it is important to remain informed, minute-by-minute news or even hourly news can exacerbate anxiety. Instead, try limiting this by creating a reasonable amount of time for obtaining needed information such as an hour once a day or every few days.
6) Be compassionate with yourself. Know that you might feel overwhelmed, anxious, or even depressed some days. During a time like this it’s to be expected. Rather than trying to fight it, accept that you’re feeling that way and be gentle with yourself. Listen to what your body might need. Maybe staying in bed and watching your favorite show is all you can do. That’s okay. You can plan to get back to your routine the following day. Saying out loud, “I feel anxious today ” or "I feel sad today" can help validate your experience which can be helpful sometimes in and of itself.
7) Reach out for support. Connecting with a licensed therapist can be beneficial to your mental heath. A therapist can help you create an individualized plan, offer coping tools, and emotional support to manage anxiety around COVID-19.
***This article is not designed to instill fear and panic but rather a validation for those experiencing anxiety during this current time as well as to offer hope and support in how to cope with it.