Let me start by saying that anxiety is a very normal response during times of stress. When we feel threatened, when we feel someone that we love and we care about is threatened, or something that we value is threatened, anxiety kind of kicks in like, “Okay, we need to do something NOW.” And it motivates us to engage in behavior to avoid that actual threat or that perceived threat.
However, for some of us, our stress response is doing its own damn thing, and spiraling out of control. And we are in constant states of fear, worry, and anxiety, and we perceive non-threatening things as threats and that's getting more into the territory of anxiety disorders, which is a separate conversation, but just so you’re aware.
Everything about this outbreak is a breeding ground for anxiety because it involves key components of things that cause anxiety, like threats. There is an actual threat that we could get the Coronavirus. Not just for ourselves, but we are concerned about our family members, our co-workers, our spouses - especially if you are someone who is immuno-compromised or you are older, or you have a condition that makes you more susceptible to getting the virus.
And not just the health threat, but look at the security threat to our well-being. A lot of people are not able to work during this time. If you're self-employed, or you work in an industry where human contact is essential to what you do, then I know you are feeling the brunt of this right now and my heart really goes out to you. So many people are being laid off, or their hours are reduced and that's affecting their income.
And newsflash, not everyone has benefits packages that allow them paid leave, emergency leave, or PTO, or vacation time. That softens the blow for some of us, but not everyone has that. That is another very real threat.
Another factor that is fueling this anxiety around Coronavirus is unpredictability. We really don't have a clear sense of what's going to happen. Or how this is going to impact us once this is over. This is a breeding ground for worst case scenarios. And with unpredictability comes this sense of a lack of control and we do not like feeling like we are not in control.
Sure, there are things that we can do to keep ourselves safe. There are things that we can do to curb the spread of it if we comply with the recommendations. Sure. But the virus is here and we can't do anything about it.
Don’t even get me started on the hoarding of toilet paper (just...WHY?). I mean, I get it to a certain degree. The anxiety around this outbreak is pushing people to engage in behavior that is not always going to look the most rational. It's all in the name of self preservation. This is why I feel it's important to talk about ways that we can cope as a community with our feelings, namely, our anxiety around this pandemic.
Here are a few tips that can help us manage our Coronavirus anxiety:
Please educate yourselves. Know the facts and stick to the facts. There's a ton of information out there right now, some factual, some not so much. Find a credible source like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO), and get educated about ways that you can protect yourself. Learn what the Coronavirus is. While the conspiracy theories are entertaining, do not use them as excuses to engage in behavior that is potentially dangerous to yourself, your loved ones, and the community.
2. Limit your exposure to the news and social media.
I know I just said you need to get educated. However, once you get the facts, simply schedule times throughout the day, or even the week, where you can update yourself on what's going on with the virus, especially in your own community. If you're experiencing anxiety due to the Coronavirus, then over-exposing yourself to the media is only making it worse.
It can be very upsetting to you to hear the number of cases that your state or your community has constantly watching the news constantly watching the updates on whatever outlet you're watching them on be that Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. My guess is it’s only making it worse.
3. Be aware of the contagious aspect of anxiety.
If you're relatively calm and you haven't really been worrying about it, but you have a friend or follower on social media who is constantly posting about it, conspiracy theories and other upsetting news, then this may be a good time to unfollow them. And unfollowing them feels weird, try to just mute their posts so that you don't constantly get it in your feed.
4. Focus on the things that you can control.
We realized that in this time, there's so much beyond our control. Our children's schools are closing, our jobs are shutting down. We're at home, people getting on our nerves, and there is no toilet paper. You can't control that. And while you may be feeling helpless during this time, I really urge you to take your power back.
One of the ways that you can do that is focusing on what you can control: the hygiene practices that you engage in to give yourself the best possible chance of staying healthy. Prioritizing your mental health. Okay, so another tip to help manage our anxiety is to...
5. Engage in deep breathing.
I regularly recommended breath work to my clients, it's also one of my personal techniques to manage my own anxiety. Just a few minutes of deep breathing can really help slow down the stress response in our bodies and bring us back to a state of balance, focus, and calm. Some people find that exercising does this for them, as well as meditation or yoga. There are apps that you can download for free that can help guide your deep breathing exercises, like the "Calm" or "3 minute mindfulness" app, but I highly recommend that you incorporate this into your daily routine, at least three times a day.
6. Stay connected to people.
Utilize virtual meetups and all kinds of Instagram Live or Facebook Live parties. There is even a feature on Zoom that lets you play games. Or, just pick up the phone to call and talk to people during this time, especially some people in your life who may not be as internet savvy.
In time, this whole Coronavirus thing will get situated and we will find some sense of normalcy back in our lives. But unfortunately for some of us, the mental ramifications from this are going to linger, especially if we don't prioritize our mental health and explore ways that we can manage our Coronavirus anxiety. If that is the case, I hope that you can benefit from these tips.
Let me know your thoughts by commenting below or sending me a message!
I also cover this in my "Do I have Coronavirus anxiety?" episode on the "No Tea, Just Juice" Podcast, if you haven't done so already, you can take a listen here.
Be well, family and as always...
Peace, Love & Juice!