These are strange times, and everything, from the continuous barrage of news updates to the empty supermarket shelves, is bound to trigger anxiety. In fact, the word ‘pandemic’ itself can cause your breath to catch. This, coupled with social distancing, a precautionary measure that is probably as disturbing as the virus itself, can have an emotional toll.
Here are some helpful tips from experts to deal with the stress and anxiety generated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Consume news in bite-sizes
It’s essential to remain informed, especially on what’s happening in your immediate community and the advisories you’ll need to follow. However, there’s a lot of misinformation and sensationalized coronavirus coverage that can easily feed your fear and increase your anxiety. So, choose the news you consume, wisely. Go with trustworthy sources like the CDC or WHO as well as your local health authorities.
Try to limit your news consumption to a few updates a day, and step away when you begin to feel overwhelmed. Better yet, ask someone reliable to update you on major happenings that you need to know about. And most important, verify your information before sharing it across media platforms and unwittingly spreading rumours and creating panic.
2. Maintain a routine
Your normal routine is sure to have been affected by the coronavirus situation. However, following a new one can bring you some stability and calmness. When things are changing all around you, having something familiar can be comforting, so settle into a new routine.
If you’re working from home now, ensure that you allow yourself proper breaks and get enough sleep. Eat healthy food and get your daily dose of exercise. Try to avoid coffee and alcohol as these can increase your anxiety. On weekends, stick to the routine you’ve been used to.
3. Focus on things you can control
The world is reeling under the pandemic, and there are many things that are beyond your control – like how long the coronavirus pandemic will last, how badly it may affect your community, other people staying home and so on. You may search for answers online, but there’s a good chance what you read could make you feel drained and anxious.
Thus, think about what you can control. Like taking precautions against infection, including washing your hands, refraining from touching your face, staying home as much as possible, maintaining social distancing, eating healthy and getting plenty of sleep to strengthen your immunity, and following recommendations from the health authorities.
4. Stay connected
It may feel like you’re unable to cope very well with this difficult situation you’ve been handed, but it helps to have the people you care about, as well as those who depend on you, close. Richa Bhatia, a board-certified child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, urges to do what you can to stay connected, because the pandemic can be incredibly isolating.
Humans are social beings, and this time can be extremely challenging. So, prioritize staying in touch with friends and family. Use your phone, texts, video chatting…whatever gives you social sustenance for each day. And make sure that coronavirus does not dominate every conversation. There are stories, jokes, and household narratives that can help you enjoy each other’s company. Remember, we’re all in this together.
5. Take care of yourself and others
If you’re experiencing more anxiety than usual, be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack. Keep some time aside for yourself to do what you love, enjoy nature and simply relax.
Helping others is a great way to make you feel better too, and not just in these times. It’s a fact that those who are aligned to others’ needs, especially in times of crisis, tend to be much happier and healthier than those who think only of themselves. Helping others isn’t just great for your own mental health and wellbeing – it’s great for the community as well. You could offer support to the elderly and disabled by delivering food or medicines or simply, through a reassuring phone call. You could also donate to food banks, assist those less fortunate with financial assistance or help feed the stray animals in your area. Just, be kind and thoughtful in everything that you do.
This is a journey we’re all navigating together, for the first time. None of us knows what to expect, and so it will help to be cautious and follow the advice of public health experts. Use whatever calming strategies work for you, and stay healthy, stay safe!
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This article was inspired by a previous publication that may be found here.