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Coronavirus Anxiety: Coping with Fear and Worry

It’s a frightening time.

We’re in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.  Cities and even entire countries are on a lockdown.  Some have already been affected by the coronavirus.  Others are bracing for what may to come.

Like so many of us, we are watching the headlines and wondering, “What is going to happen next.”

If you are already living with anxiety, the uncertainty of surrounding coronavirus can be the most challenging to handle.  We don’t know how exactly we’ll be impacted or how bad things might get.  And that makes it all too easy to catastrophize and spiral out into overwhelming panic.

Here is the good news.

Even in the face of this unique crisis, these tips can help you get through this stressful time.

It’s important to stay informed, particularly about what’s happening in your community.  There’s a lot of misinformation going around, as well as sensationalistic coverage that only feeds into fear.  It’s important to separate what you read and watch.

Stick to trustworthy sources such as the World Health Organization.

Limit how much you check for updates.   News and social media feeds can quickly turn compulsive and fueling anxiety rather than calming it.  The limit is different for everyone, so pay attention to how you’re feeling and adjust accordingly.

Step away from media if you start to feel overwhelmed and anxious.  If anxiety is an ongoing issue, consider limiting your media consumption to a specific time frame and time of day.

We’re in a time of massive upheaval. There are so many things outside of our control, including how long the pandemic lasts, how other people behave, and what’s going to happen in our communities.

That’s a tough thing to accept, and so many of us respond by endlessly searching the Internet for answers and thinking over all the different scenarios that might happen. But as long as we’re focusing on questions with unknowable answers outside of our personal control, this strategy will get us nowhere—aside from feeling drained, anxious, and overwhelmed.

When you feel yourself getting caught up in fear of what might happen, try to shift your focus to things you can control. For example, you can’t control how severe the coronavirus outbreak is in your city or town, but you can take steps to reduce your own personal risk (and the risk you’ll unknowingly spread it to others), such as:

  • washing your hands frequently (for at least 20 seconds) with soap and water or a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • avoiding touching your face (particularly your eyes, nose, and mouth).
  • staying home as much as possible, even if you don’t feel sick.
  • avoiding crowds and gatherings of 10 or more people.
  • avoiding all non-essential shopping and travel.
  • keeping 6 feet of distance between yourself and others when out.
  • getting plenty of sleep, helps support your immune system.
  • following all recommendations from health authorities.

Social distancing is so important but comes with its own risks.

Here’s why.

Humans are social animals. We’re hardwired for connection. Isolation and loneliness can intensify anxiety and even impact our physical health. That’s why it’s important to stay connected as best we can and reach out for support when we need it, even as we cut back on in-person socializing.

  • Make it a priority to stay in touch with friends and family. If you tend to withdraw when anxious, think about scheduling regular phone, chat, or Skype/Zoom dates to counteract that tendency.
  • While in-person visits are limited, substitute video chatting if you’re able. Face-to-face contact is like a “vitamin” for your mental health, reducing your risk of depression and helping ease stress and anxiety.
  • Social media can be a powerful tool—not only for connecting with friends, family, and acquaintances—but for feeling connected in a greater sense to our communities, country, and the world. It reminds us we’re not alone.
  • That said, be mindful of how social media is making you feel.  Log off if it’s making you feel worse.
  • Don’t let coronavirus dominate every conversation. It’s important to take breaks from stressful thoughts about the pandemic to simply enjoy each other’s company—to laugh, share stories, and focus on other things going on in our lives.

Beyond anxiety management strategies, here are some tips for practicing self-care.

  • Be kind to yourself. Go easy on yourself if you’re experiencing more anxiety than usual. You’re not alone in your struggles.
  • Maintain a routine as best you can. Even if you’re stuck at home, try to stick to your regular sleep, school, meal, or work schedule. This can help you maintain a sense of normalcy.
  • Take time out for activities you enjoy. Read a good book, watch a comedy, play a fun board or video game, make something—whether it’s a new recipe, a craft, or a piece of art. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it takes you out of your worries.
  • Get out in nature, if possible. Sunshine and fresh air will do you good. Even a walk around your neighborhood can make you feel better. Just be sure to avoid crowds, keep your distance from people you encounter, and obey restrictions in your area.
  • Find ways to exercise. Staying active will help you release anxiety, relieve stress, and manage your mood. While the gym and group classes are out, you can still cycle, hike, or walk. Or if you’re stuck at home, look online for exercise videos you can follow. There are many things you can do even without equipment, such as yoga and exercises that use your own bodyweight.
  • Avoid self-medicating. Be careful that you’re not using alcohol or other substances to deal with anxiety. If you tend to overdo it in the best of times, it may be a good idea to avoid for now.

If you need professional help, please reach out.  Don’t forget, you are not alone in how you are feeling.

 

Loretta Holmes, M.A. began coaching little humans and women who are affected by anxiety in 2012.  With over a decade of experience as an educator and coach, she coaches people how to develop the skills to build their self-confidence and manage anxiety without medication.

Born in Michigan, Holmes received a bachelor’s degree in special education and a master’s degree in educational technology as well as a graduate certificate in NLP and life coaching.  To learn more about Loretta Holmes, you can visit her website at bellacochingservices.com, and connect with her on Instagram, Facebook or Linkedin.

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