Managing Anxiety in a Pandemic

Who would have thought that social distancing, COVID-19, and pandemic would be normal words to use in 2020. These words also come with a whole whirlwind of stress and anxiety. These can look different from person to person, but most people are feeling some affect of fear, changes in routine, losses, or stress. It is normal to feel worried about your health and the health of your loved ones. You may also notice difficulties in sleeping and concentrating or changes in appetite. Here are a few things you can do to help you manage some of this coronavirus anxiety.

1. Connect with friends and family. Humans are social beings, which means not feeling a connection to others can drastically impact our mental health. Isolation can lead to developing feelings of depression and overall dissatisfaction with life. Luckily, we have many ways of connecting digitally! You can watch a movie with friends with the Netflix Party extension or have a family reunion via Google Meet.

Here is a Google Doc full of different games available to play online.

2. Create boundaries with media. Watching and reading the news can take its toll. It can help to identify reliable sources of information and have set times to consume the news. Stay mindful of how social media contributes to being a place of news sharing as limits may be needed here as well. Set a timer and plan something relaxing afterwards to help manage any anxiety that could arise as a result. Take a look at the Mamma Media worksheet to identify your limit and create a healthy balance to staying informed.

3. Have a daily routine and try to stay consistent. It is very easy to lose your natural routine when you are home day after day. Try to create some consistencies throughout the day, such as waking up and getting dressed for the day or eating meals around the same time each day. These little things can go a long way in helping us manage the many the stressors and transitions happening around us.

4. Find coping strategies that work for you. Whether it is virtual yoga, a breathing exercise, or journaling, it is important to figure out what coping strategies work for you. This can look different for each person, so it may take some trial and error. Take a look at this Self Care Word Search for some ideas! Looking to learn a breathing exercise? Click here for a video tutorial.

5. Focus on what you CAN control. With the uncertainty and fear looming over us, it is common to get stuck in the spiral of “what if” scenarios and worst case situations. This is what we like to call catastrophizing. It is normal and valid to feel whatever you are feeling, especially given the circumstances. It can help to ask yourself “What is the worst case scenario?”, “How likely is this to happen?”, “What would you tell a friend going through this situation?”.

Remember that the one thing you can control is you and your actions. You CAN control prioritizing taking care of your body and mental health. You can get enough rest, stay hydrated, meditate, eat healthy, stay active, wash your hands thoroughly, and maintain social distancing.

6. Keep expectations in check. I often hear people saying they are finding it hard to be productive and putting pressure on themselves to take advantage of any free time they may have. It is important to remember that while there may be some more time in the day, it is also a time of high stress and anxiety. Keep this in mind when you create your goals for the day. On the tough days, getting up and eating a bowl of cereal can be just as big of a win.

7. Anxiety is normal and doesn’t have to be a bad thing! Anxiety is a feeling for a reason! It helps us focus on a potential danger and motivates us to do what’s necessary to stay safe. This anxiety is what is helping us all avoid large groups, make sure we are washing our hands, and wanting to stay informed. A lot of anxiety isn’t as productive, so if you find yourself in panic mode, try to practice some self care and talk to a mental health professional to help you learn strategies to keep the anxiety at a manageable level.

Poonam Patel, MS, LPC is a licensed professional counselor and owner of Phoenix Wellness Center, a therapy practice providing individual, couples, family, and group counseling to kids, teens, and adults.