How to manage Coronavirus-related anxiety
Updated: Mar 30, 2020
Coronavirus is one of the most talked about topics in recent weeks. It's everywhere. We literally eat, sleep, breathe, and talk about it. And all that talk creates a lot of anxiety.
One of the Infectious Disease doctors that I know posts some great tips about managing this challenging time from a medical perspective - wash your hands for 20 seconds (there are some great songs to hum along to if you need some help with timing), use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, cough into a tissue and throw it away, etc.
He also encourages his followers not to panic. How, exactly, do we not panic in a time like this? All the stores are out of hand sanitizer. People are stocking up on the pantry staples in case of a quarantine. With all of this, who can't help but panic just a little?
As a specialist in treating anxiety, I thought I'd share my thoughts on how to manage this from a mental health perspective.
1. Know that panic symptoms are temporary. Our bodies cannot sustain a level of intense panic for more than 10 minutes at a time. What this means is that worst symptoms of panic will peak within 10 minutes and then slowly be on the decline after that.
2. Remind yourself that some level of anxiety is to be expected. There's so much we don't know about if/when coronavirus will impact our communities. Having some anxiety about this is not necessarily a bad thing because it keeps us on high alert and helps us be more productive in preparation.
3. Try to respond to the situation at hand. Why quarantine yourself unnecessarily? If there are things that you want to do and feel reasonably comfortable doing so, take advantage of it now. Instead of being anticipatory to the point where it's causing you to sidestep life right now, consider what you do know.
4. Sign up for information alerts in your community and have some level of trust in how information is being shared. I've had doctor's offices send out e-mails to patients stating their plan and what they know so far about the virus. The same is true for a lot of communities. Put yourself on the e-mail blast list for your town or community so that you'll be "in the know" if/when changes to daily life take place.
5. Make accommodations when you need to. For example, our office offers telehealth (video or phone) sessions to clients who don't feel comfortable coming to the office, are at risk for being exposed to the virus, recently traveled, or aren't feeling well. If you're concerned, ask what accommodations may be available for your circumstance - rescheduling a necessary in-office appointment, working from home, or taking a video conference call instead of traveling out of town for a meeting.
My top 7 anxiety-busting tips for when you can't clear your head:
1. 5-4-3-2-1: Stop what you're doing. Quickly pick out 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
2. Count backwards from 100 by 7's.
3. Spell your full name forwards and backwards.
4. Practice belly breathing.
5. Go for a walk outside.
6. Write it down. If it's on paper, it'll be there for you when you want to reference it. It'll clear out space for other things to think about that are more enjoyable than worry.
7. Make your worry time limited. Give yourself 5 minutes of intense worry time twice a day. Do the best job you can at worrying for the full 5 minutes. I suggest doing that once in the morning and once about an hour before bed.
If you need more individualized guidance, contact us for a free 15-minute phone consultation. We are here to help.