Fears about coronavirus can take an emotional toll, especially if you’re already experiencing an anxiety disorder. Being in the midst of a worldwide pandemic is a frightening time. Some people live in areas where coronavirus infection rates are higher and higher every week, and others are bracing for whatever may come next.
For many people, the hardest thing to handle is the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. No one knows exactly how they’ll be impacted, how bad things may get, or how long this will last. This means that the entire situation makes it all too easy to spiral out into overwhelming panic.
The good news is that there are many things you can do to manage your anxiety and fears even in the face of this unprecedented crisis.
What are the ways to take care of yourself during the coronavirus pandemic?
Whether you’re already living with anxiety or depression or your mental health has taken a turn for the worse because of the pandemic, here are some of the ways you can take care of yourself during this unique crisis.
Remain informed but don’t check the news obsessively
It’s important to remain informed, particularly regarding what’s happening in your local community, so you can do your part to slow the spread of coronavirus and follow the recommended safety precautions. However, this is a period where a lot of misinformation is going around, not to mention sense the amount of sensationalistic coverage that feeds into fear.
Try to stick to reliable sources such as the World Health Organization or your local public health authorities, and limit how often you check for updates. Most people have found that the constant monitoring of social media feeds and news is counterproductive and can turn into compulsiveness. Instead of easing your anxiety, constantly checking for updates is likely to fuel it instead.
Setting some limits to your media consumption is often beneficial for your mental health. While it’s important to stay informed, being bombarded with news that induce anxiety is counterproductive, so set a limit that works for you and stick to it.
Only focus on things that you can control
These are unprecedented times, and most things are outside of your control, including what’s going to happen in your community, how long the pandemic will last, and how other people choose to behave. Even though it’s difficult to accept that you don’t have control over the outcome, it’s important to only focus on what you can actually control.
Try to shift the focus on reducing your own personal risk and the risk of unknowingly spreading the disease by staying at home as much as possible even if you aren’t sick, washing your hands frequently with soap and water, avoiding touching your face, avoiding all nonessential shopping and travel, and avoiding crowds and gatherings of more than 10 people.
It is essential to take care of yourself by eating healthily and getting plenty of sleep. Both these things can help support your immune system while also contributing positively to your mental health.
Stay connected with the important people in your life
Social distancing is essential for stopping the spread of coronavirus, but it comes with lots of mental health risks. Humans are hardwired for social connection, which means that loneliness and isolation can exacerbate depression and anxiety.
For this reason, it’s important to remain connected as much as possible and reach out for support when you need it, even if it’s not possible to enjoy in-person socializing.
Make it a priority to remain in touch with your family and friends, even if you are one of the many people who tend to withdraw when they feel anxious or depressed. If you feel that your spending days or weeks without human conduct, try to schedule regular phone calls or Zoom dates with important people in your life.
Social media is a good tool to keep you connected not just for your family and friends but also with the community you live in and the entire world. Feeling connected reminds you that you’re not alone, but it’s also important to be mindful of how social media makes you feel. If you believe that being connected with all kinds of people and following their discussion is exacerbating your anxiety, don’t hesitate to log off.
Take care of your body and mind
This is a trying time, so it’s important to apply all the stress management strategies that have been proven to work for most people. Practicing self-care means taking care of both your body and spirit, so here are some self-care steps to follow to reduce your levels of anxiety.
- Maintain a routine even if you’re stuck at home. Try to speak to your regular sleep, meal, or work schedule even if you are working from home because this can help you maintain a sense of normalcy.
- Be kind to yourself. If you feel that you’re experiencing more anxiety or depression than usual, don’t be hard on yourself and remember that you are not alone in your struggle.
- Reserve time for activities you enjoy. Whether it’s watching a movie, reading a good book, or playing a videogame, take time out to do something you enjoy. It doesn’t actually matter what activity is as long as it takes your worries away.
- Get out of the house as much as possible. Fresh air and sunshine are good for you, so even a quick stroll around the neighborhood can make you feel better. Just make sure you obey the restrictions in your area and give your distance from the crowds.
- Remain active and exercise. Physical exercise is a great way to relieve stress, reduce anxiety, and manage your mood. If your local gym is closed, try running or go for a walk in the park. Cycling, hiking, or exercising at home following online videos are all good options to remain fit during this trying time.
- Avoid “self-medication.” Even though people tend to self-medicate using alcohol or other substances to deal with depression and anxiety during difficult times, you should avoid it as much as possible. This is particularly important if you tend to overdo it in normal times.
- Take up a relaxation practice. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing and yoga can all be of help when you feel stressed. By incorporating a regular relaxation technique into your life, you can restore your sense of equilibrium.
Help other people
It’s easy to get caught up in your own concerns and fears during difficult times like this. But amid all the stories about people fighting over masks and vaccines, it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together.
By focusing on other people in need and doing your part in the community, you are likely to feel less anxious. It has been demonstrated time and again that people who help others tend to be happier and heathier than those who only act in their interest.
By offering your help to neighbors or family, making a donation, or using your skills to help others, you can regain a sense of control over your life while also adding meaning and purpose.
Try keeping a mood diary
When you’re feeling low, your self-esteem might drop, and it’s easy to feel like you’re failing at everything. If you’re in a place where you feel like your mood is constantly low, keeping a mood diary may help you get back on track.
This is a diary there you can note the times and activities that tend to make you feel better or worse. You can keep a traditional diary or opt for an online version such as MoodPanda, for example, which is available for free.
Seek professional help
If you find that the pandemic has been seriously affecting your mental health, it’s vital to seek professional help. If it’s not possible to see a therapist in person, look for online options instead. Urgent support is also available if you feel unable to cope or keep yourself safe.
Taking care of yourself if you’re struggling with anxiety about coronavirus can better equip you to take care of others. During these unprecedented times of social distancing, it’s especially important to remain connected with the important people in your life, such as your family and friends.
If you’re struggling to cope, there are numerous ways to get help. If you feel that stress gets in the way of your activities multiple days in a row, call your health care provider to ask for advice. There are also free and confidential resources available in most area that can help you or a loved one connect with trained counselor.