Managing anxiety and stress related to COVID-19

By Louise Sköld Boström

Being stressed worried and anxious is a natural and understandable reaction. If we look at the predictors of how stressful things can be, it comes down to how predictable they are, how much of the situation we are able to control and how important it is to our wellbeing. Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 outbreak, we have little to no control over this situation. We cannot predict for how long our lives will remain like this and it is of utmost importance since it affects our daily lives and routines in all that we do. Regardless of any change that might happen to our regular schedule, it can affect our mental health and therefore this situation is considered as extra challenging to many of us. What’s important is to be aware of how our own mental health is affected and what triggers our anxieties, but also being aware of when the anxiety is getting too hard to handle on our own.

In order to help reduce some of the anxious and stressful emotions we might feel on a daily basis, it is important to try and focus on other things besides coronavirus. According to Alicia Murray, a licensed mental health counselor “Studies have been done showing an increase in anxiety and depression symptoms when more time is spent on social media” which reveals to us that it is equally as important to limit our news consumption and social media usage in order to avoid getting overwhelmed yet still finding a way to stay up to date. Considering anxiety is also derived from the ability or inability to control a situation, we must learn how to focus on things we have the ability to control and let go of things we cannot control.

Training our mind to learn what stressors are triggering a reaction in our mental state,  we might keep our sanity in a chaotic environment.

Training our mind to learn what stressors are triggering a reaction in our mental state,
we might keep our sanity in a chaotic environment.

“Keep yourself occupied”
Kathryn Ely, an associate licensed counselor, recommends to “Tune into your trusted news sources once or twice a day. Find out what you need to know, then move on to as many regular activities as possible. Coronavirus cannot and should not be your only focus” in order not get too consumed with COVID-19. We can also use technology for something good, such as keeping in contact with family and friends who also might at risk and isolated due to their age or health conditions.

Fortunately, nowadays, we have the ability to make video calls, to get some sort of social interaction, and preferably, to talk about something that is unrelated to the Coronavirus. We can also use the internet to take advantage of many different resources rather than only using it for social media and checking the news. We can take virtual yoga or other exercise classes, read to younger children that have to stay at home because of closed schools, watch movies or shows or get access to a variety of online learning options.
Even though it is important to stay updated to a certain degree considering what is going on, try to stay busy. Distraction is key in avoiding anxiety associated with Coronavirus. It could be anything from taking a walk, going for a run, or tackling chores that have yet to be finished. It is also important to try and keep our living space clean and tidy. This minimizes the stress it can have on our mental health. In order to maintain some sort of consistency and meet the new restrictions and changes in a structural matter, it is important to follow a consistent schedule.

it is important to follow a consistent schedule.

it is important to follow a consistent schedule.

“The New Normal”
Murray recommends that “If facing a quarantine at home, it is important to honor your body’s habits and routines and maintain a schedule. Wake up around the same time each day, get dressed, eat breakfast, and make a list of things you would like to get done that day” she further claims that “Staying home and remaining isolated can cause people to grow bored and increase their likelihood to feel depressed or anxious, but remaining productive can provide them with a sense of “new” normal”.

Despite this being an unprecedented and challenging time for us, it is important not to fixate on our physical health but be mindful of our mental health. As careful as we are about using face masks, washing our hands with soap and water, using hand sanitizer, and keeping a safe distance, we should do the same for what is going on in our head. By doing some or all of these things listed above, we might be somewhat able to reduce our stress and anxiety levels. However, we also have to be aware that having these emotions is completely normal in times like these. Therefore, by training our minds to learn what stressors are triggering a reaction in our mental state, we might keep our sanity in a chaotic environment.

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