Anxiety is not automatically a bad thing. In fact, it’s an important emotion that can make you aware of imminent dangers and threats. Anxiety, in limited, timely amounts, can save your life. Issues arise when this internal warning system doesn’t shut off when the danger passes. In highly stressful times — like the prolonged coronavirus pandemic that we are all enduring — our fight-or-flight response can get stuck in a state of high alert.
Chronic tension, fear, and worry are not natural. Thus, it can then develop into an anxiety disorder, exhibited by signs like:
- Physical symptoms, e.g. elevated heart rate, hyperventilation, sweating, shaking hands and/or voice, weakness, digestive problems, and sleep disturbances
- Emotional issues like restlessness, panic attacks, a sense of impending danger, social isolation, loss of concentration, and inability to focus.
Perhaps some of these symptoms sound familiar. Perhaps they’ve emerged or escalated since the quarantine first commenced.
How to Cope With Coronavirus Anxiety
1. Focus on What You Can Control
Ancient Roman philosophers like Marcus Aurelius implored us to focus solely on what we can control. In this situation, this is pretty easy. We can all regularly wash our hands for 20 seconds, stay at home as much as possible, and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet when outside.
2. Seek Out Balance When it Comes to News Updates
Strike a balance between staying informed and obsessively checking the news. For starters, set a limit to your news consumption. Try checking the news only once or twice a day and limit the time to half an hour.
3. Maintain a Structured Routine
For those of you who work in a traditional job setting, you’re probably missing your routine right now. We humans need some predictability. When so much feels unpredictable, do your best to create a daily and weekly routine that includes exercise, social interaction and activities you can look forward to. If you are an essential worker or are returning to work outside your home create safety protocols. For example, wash your hands when you leave work, shower when you get home and throw your work clothes in the washing machine.
4. Stay Connected With Others
Your devices can work against you when it comes to news consumption. Conversely, those phones, laptops, and iPads are amazing tools for staying in contact with friends and family. Use platforms like Skype, Facetime, and Zoom to reduce isolation. Make sure you have time with a good friend or loved one every day through online video conferencing. Have a virtual dinner, happy hour or play games together.
5. Help Those Within Your Reach
You may feel helpless in a time when you expected to keep your distance. However, you can still find ways to check in on those who may be alone. Don’t take for granted that your neighbors are doing fine. Reach out and make sure. Or, make masks for your community and give them to those who need them.
6. Practice Self-Care
A daily routine of self-care will not only help your health, but it can also contribute toward creating structure. Some basics to include:
- Mindful breathing
- Walking meditation
- Exercise and stretching
- Healthy eating habits
- Regular sleep patterns
7. Get Outside
If you’re not sick, you can go out for walks. It’s important to move your body when you’re feeling anxious. Just wear a mask and maintain a healthy distance. Exercising safely in nature can really help you be more relaxed, in balance and give you a better perspective.
8. Be Compassionate With Yourself and Others
Each of us is navigating uncharted territory. Some folks rely on humor while others fixate on politics. Please keep in mind that empathy and benefit of the doubt are timely virtues. We are all struggling with fear, loss, and uncertainty. They deserve your compassion. You deserve your compassion. It is okay to freely give and receive it.
Safe Psychotherapy In the Time of Coronavirus
If you find that your own anxiety-reducing tools aren’t working, you can seek out professional help — even during a pandemic. I’m here to help. I offer online video sessions that can be catered to your current needs and situation. Please read more about anxiety treatment and contact me to set up a free 30-minute consultation soon.