Coping with Coronavirus Anxiety

Adaptation of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942) by Reddit user damnburglar, 2014

The global invisible enemy we are now struggling with and the constant coverage of the crisis we hear on the news make it hard not to worry about what this crisis means for ourselves and the people we love.

As human beings, we have the ability to think about the future. This ability helps us anticipate problems and plan ways to overcome these difficulties and achieve our goals. In the case of Covid-19, we wash out hands frequently and practice social distancing to keep the virus from spreading, while protecting our personal and collective health.

However, thinking about the future is not always positive or strategic, as we also think in unproductive ways that make us feel anxious and vulnerable. This is what happens when we worry about worst-case scenarios coming true and us being unable to cope. In the case of Covid-19 again, we may imagine that we or our loved ones may catch the virus and become seriously ill or that our job may be in danger or our business will fail.

In fact, worry takes the lead when we face a situation that is:

  • ambiguous – open to different interpretations.
  • new – so we don't have any experience to guide us on how to handle it.
  • unpredictable – when it is unclear how the situation will turn out.

In times of such uncertainty, worry can overwhelm us, distorting our thoughts, taking hold of our emotions and driving our behavior. When worry becomes excessive, we can feel it in our bodies too: our muscles go tense or ache, we can't concentrate or relax, or we have difficulty sleeping or feel easily tired. Although we could say this is natural, especially in times of unprecedented chaos, we need to and can take control and manage it. 

Some tips to cope with worry 

  • Observe what triggers your worry and limit the time you are exposed to it. If the news coverage of the pandemic triggers your worry, it might be helpful if you didn't spend the whole day listening to the news or checking social media for updates. Set a time to listen to the news each day and spend less time on social media.
  • Follow official and trustworthy news sources, such as the World Health Organization.
  • Set a routine for each day. Set a regular time for waking up and going to bed, for eating or getting dressed each morning.
  • Stay mentally and physically active and be proactive. Why not try leaning a new skill via an online course, watching educational videos, reading a book, or finding a language partner online to practice speaking the foreign language you're learning at college? To keep physically active, you could work out with an online exercise video—Cyberobics, for example, has just made its online video library available free of charge for the time being—or do the housework or rearrange the furniture!
  • Practice mindfulness, stay in the here-and-now, and take one day at a time. Stay home to protect yourself and follow the guidance of the experts. Actually, staying home is the only thing you have to do.
  • Cook a meal for yourself and your family, bake a cake or cookies, or try a new recipe.
  • Relax. Do some relaxation exercises, listen to your favorite music, reflect on your plans, enjoy the silence.
  • Connect with people, contact a friend, join a new group online or reconnect with an old friend.
  • Practice gratitude at the end of each day, taking time to reflect on what you are thankful for, as 'I am grateful that it was sunny today and I could sit on the balcony'. You could write in a gratitude journal,and involve other people in your home to do so, too.
  • Practice kindness. When you order your supermarket supplies, or go for a quick shopping, offer to buy things for a friend, a relative or a neighbor in need. Make a gift for someone or teach someone a skill over video.
  • Increase self-awareness and practice self-control and inner discipline. Though it may sound a paradox, this negative experience can be a blessing in disguise if we manage to come out of it stronger, more conscious of our priorities in life and better persons.

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Written by: HAEC
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