7 strategies to cope with coronavirus anxiety
As the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to globally spread and the number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases continues to rise, anxiety related to the outbreak is on the rise too. And if you are in one of the last areas to begin reopening like we are in Pennsylvania; this is especially true.
Feeling worry and anxiety in response to a problem or threat is a normal human reaction but sustained high anxiety can seriously undermine an individual’s positive, problem solving responses and overall health. And if you already suffer from anxiety and related disorders you are especially likely to have a hard time during the coronavirus crisis.
The following suggestions can help you deal with the anxiety from the coronavirus crisis or life in general and are proactive but remember, IT’S OK to allow yourself the space to feel down, scared ore worried. Those feelings are a NORMAL reaction to this type of event. Feel them, embrace them and be kind and forgiving with yourself but when you are ready to accept them and move on, try the following steps:
1. Practice tolerating uncertainty
We live in a world where so many of us are conditioned to expect certainty, to choose the action with the least risk. This intolerance of uncertainty, has been increasing in the U.S., making people more vulnerable to anxiety. A study during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic showed that people who had a harder time accepting the uncertainty of the situation were more likely to experience elevated anxiety.
People who need more certainty tend to have developed “certainty- seeking” behaviors. The solution is to gradually learn to face uncertainty in daily life. How?...
Start small: Stop yourself from texting your friend immediately the next time you need an answer to a question or go on a hike without checking the weather before heading out. Take a drive without knowing where you will wind up. Maybe pick a road to explore or a direction to head and see what you find. As you build your tolerance for uncertainty and “going-with-the flow”, you can work to reducing the number of times a day you check the internet for updates on the outbreak or responses to your social media posts. This can dramatically improve your levels of stress and anxiety.
2. Conquer resistance
Anxiety rises in direct proportion to how much a person tries to get rid of it. Or as Carl Jung put it, “What you resist persists.” As the saying goes, “What you think about, you bring about”.
Struggling against anxiety can take many forms. People might try to distract themselves by drinking, eating or watching Netflix more than usual. They might repeatedly seek reassurance from friends, family or health experts. Or they might obsessively check news streams, hoping to calm their fears. Although these behaviors can help momentarily, they can make anxiety worse in the long run. Avoiding the experience of anxiety almost always backfires.
While being consumed with never -ending anxiety is not healthy, allowing your situational anxious thoughts, feelings and physical sensations to wash over you and accepting them as a normal part of human experience can lead to less anxiety. When waves of coronavirus anxiety show up, notice and describe the experience to yourself or others without judgment. Journal your thoughts and feelings to release them to paper. Resist the urge to escape or calm your fears by obsessively reading virus updates, over-eating, over-exercising, over-drinking etc. Acknowledging, facing, allowing and releasing or sharing anxiety in the moment will lead to less anxiety over time.
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3. Rise above your anxiety
The threat of illness can trigger the fear that underlies all fears: fear of death. Being reminded of one’s own mortality, can trigger an overwhelming sense health anxiety and an obsession on any signs of illness. Worry related to the challenges of simple everyday life are real but perhaps never more “real” and warranted than now, during the Covid-19 crisis but worry with problem solving is very different than feeling overwhelmed by anxiety.
Realizing and connecting to your life’s purpose and sources of meaning, be it spirituality, relationships, or pursuit of a cause can be a powerful source of grounding, help to ease anxiety and put you on the path of problem solving.
Embarking on something important you have been putting off for years, taking responsibility for how you live your life and focusing on your “why” of life can go a long way in helping you deal with unavoidable anxiety. If you have never worked with a Transformation or Breakthrough Coach, now may be a great time. Why not fill your quarantine hours growing and choosing to empower yourself instead of succumbing to the withering feelings of anxiety?
4. Never underestimate your ability to “bounce back”
Our minds are amazing at imagining or predicting the worst. Thankfully, research shows that most people tend to overestimate how badly they’ll be affected by negative events and underestimate how well they’ll cope with and adjust to difficult situations.
We are all are more resilient than we think. Still worry about how you would handle your worst-case scenario. There is really no way to know until we are in a situation like that. In the meantime, there are activities and exercise one can practice to help them build their resiliency and this is something a professional coach can help with.
5. Don’t get sucked into overestimating the threat
Coronavirus can be dangerous, and everyone should absolutely be serious about taking all the reasonable precautions against the infection.
But people also should realize that humans tend to exaggerate the danger of unfamiliar threats compared to ones they already know, like seasonal flu or car accidents. The never-ending and inconsistent media coverage contributes to the sense of danger. All of this leads to heightened fear and further escalation of perceived danger.
To reduce anxiety, I recommend limiting your exposure to coronavirus news to no more than 30 minutes per day or smaller exposures with something uplifting in between like some great music and not in the evening or before bed. I make a practice of not starting or ending my day with the news or social media. This way you can set the tone you choose for the day, first thing in the morning and you can clear your mind in the evening to get a better night’s sleep.
People become more anxious when faced with situations that have no clear precedent. Anxiety, in turn, makes everything seem more dire.
6. Strengthen self-care
During these anxiety-provoking times, it’s important to remember the tried-and-true anxiety prevention and stress reducing strategies.
Getting enough quality sleep, exercising regularly, practicing mindfulness, spending time in nature, journaling your thoughts and practicing relaxation techniques when stressed can make the world of difference in your state of mind and your levels of worry or full-blown anxiety. Prioritizing these behaviors during the coronavirus crisis can go a long way toward increasing your physical health, psychological wellbeing and bolstering your immune system.
7. Seek professional help if you need it
People who are vulnerable to anxiety and related disorders might find the coronavirus epidemic simply more than they can bear. As a result, they may experience anxiety symptoms that interfere with work, maintaining close relationships, socializing or taking care of themselves or going about normal daily activity.
If this applies to you, please seek professional help from your doctor or a mental health professional right away.
Although you may be feeling helpless during this stressful time, following these strategies can help keep anxiety from becoming a problem in its own right.