As COVID-19 has spread further and impacted more and more lives, many of us are experiencing very real anxiety and fear. These are normal, healthy reactions to a life- and society-changing pandemic, but they don’t have to control us. Here are a few tips on how to stay calm while we’re socially-distancing, self-isolating, or even under quarantine.
Your Fear Is Real
The schools are our potentially the rest of the year, much-anticipated trips are cancelled, and large gatherings are prohibited. Fear and panic are everywhere. We are facing changes almost every hour. It makes sense to be afraid and anxious.
Some anxiety is even beneficial. Biologically, anxiety makes you more alert and prepared to deal with threats or unpredictable situations. If, however, you are overwhelmed and paralyzed by that anxiety, then it becomes a problem.
Responses like taking extra precautions, distancing, isolating, and even some stocking up on supplies are natural, positive responses to this anxiety. Unfortunately, the constant media attention has heightened mass-anxiety and panicked responses like hoarding toilet paper and medical masks. Since anxiety and panic are often a response to uncertainty and perceived threats, these reactions make sense. And while studies on COVID-19 are underway, we’re still left with lots of questions, and uncertainty about a threat can leave us feeling a lack of control.1
Tips for Handling Anxiety
Staying informed on the issue can help us regain a sense of control over our fears and anxieties. But we have to be careful not to overdo it.1 Some news sources tend to sensationalize facts and events, and this can contribute to anxiety. Similarly, continuous or repeat exposure to dramatic headlines only serves to perpetuate our fears.
Find a trusted, reputable news source like the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s website. Update yourself on the facts and current safety recommendations, then put aside your phone or turn off your computer and focus your attention on the matters at hand.
Talk About Your Fears with Your Partner or Close Friends
One way to validate your own fears is to share them with your partner or close friends. We are all in this together, even if we have to stay in our own homes, and many of us are having similar fears. Talk about what you’re feeling and how these changes are affecting your life. The simple act of naming feelings calms the brain and regulates painful and difficult emotions.2 Also, sharing in this way increases the bonds between us and helps us create meaning and a sense of control.
Reassure Your Children They’re Safe
Children look to their parents to see how they should react to new situations. This doesn’t mean that we have to pretend everything is okay, but we do need to make an effort to calm our own anxieties so that we can also reassure them. Give an age-appropriate explanation of what is happening and why they aren’t going back to school for a while, then help them take control of what they can by reiterating the importance of washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when we’re sick. Finally, reassure them that they are safe and loved, and that you’re all going to get through this together.
Connect with Others
Many of us have some unexpected time off from work, even if it’s just the time saved not commuting to the office. Use this time to connect with your family, partner, and friends. Isolation is stressful and can lead to depression. Thanks to today’s technology, we can all be alone together by using video-call features for those family and friends who live in different houses from us. At home, find new activities, games, and tv shows to enjoy with your kids. Create a date night with your spouse, or reserve a coffee hour in the morning to talk and check-in.
Take Care of Yourself
Taking care of ourselves means doing what we can mentally, physically, and emotionally to feel well. These things can vary somewhat from person to person. Consider making a list of activities, habits, and even foods that make you feel well, then choose one of those items or activities to implement every day. Maybe you could fit in even more than one a day! See the next section for tips on staying well physically.
Tips for Staying Well
When we’re nervous, we sometimes forget to drink enough water. Or we fall back on caffeine or alcohol in an attempt to make us feel better. But even mild dehydration can adversely affect our mood.3 Taking in enough water will help you stay energized and better able to focus.
Get Enough Sleep
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, people who get enough sleep get sick less frequently, have a lower incidence of serious health problems, and have an easier time maintaining a healthy weight. Enough sleep also helps you think clearly and make good decisions!4
Studies show that mild to moderate aerobic activity for just thirty minutes can significantly improve anxiety and depression. These effects are the same regardless of gender, age, or previous health condition.5 So take a stroll with your pup, or toss a ball in the back yard with your kids, and notice the difference in your mood at the same time you’re maintaining good health.
Dr. Irena Remains Available
During this crisis, Dr. Irena is still available every for in-person and telehealth sessions. She takes all the necessary precautions for in-person sessions (e.g. sanitizing doorknobs and surfaces after every client, thoroughly washing hands, and requesting that clients who feel ill call in instead). If you need support staying calm during this season of uncertainty with Coronavirus, call Dr. Irena for a free 10-minute phone consultation: (281)-267-1742 or to schedule and online session.
- Timsit, A. (2020, March 9). The psychology of coronavirus fear-and how to manage it. Retrieved from https://qz.com/1812664/the-psychology-of-coronavirus-fear-and-how-to-overcome-it/
- Lieberman, M. D., Eisenberger, N. I., Crockett, M. J., Tom, S. M., Pfeifer, J. H., & Way, B. M. (2007). Putting Feelings Into Words. Psychological Science, 18(5), 421–428. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01916.x
- Poitras, C. (2012, February 21). Even Mild Dehydration Can Alter Mood. Retrieved from https://today.uconn.edu/2012/02/even-mild-dehydration-can-alter-mood/#
- Get Enough Sleep. (2020, January 24). Retrieved from https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/everyday-healthy-living/mental-health-and-relationships/get-enough-sleep#panel-2
- Guszkowska, M. (2004). Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood. Psychiatr Pol. 2004 Jul-Aug;38(4):611-20.