- Posted by Jon Harju
- On March 10, 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is at the forefront of many people’s minds, as the outbreak continues to dominate global news and media. During times of uncertainty, it is understandable that many of us feel an increased level of concern around protecting the health and safety of ourselves, our families and communities.
Though the virus symptoms are similar in many ways to the typical influenza outbreaks we deal with each season, the novel nature of COVID-19 is a significant contributor to the anxiety that many people are experiencing, affecting their actions and reactions.
Outbreaks like the current COVID-19 can trigger feelings of powerlessness and fear in us. Although a little bit of anxiety can positively make us more conscious about the decisions we make for our health and future, outbreaks are also the reminder that we live in a world with ever-changing threats to our health and life. So, it’s crucial to recognize the possible impact this can have on your mental health.
Be mindful of your anxiety levels
It’s normal to feel anxious when facing an outbreak, especially with the influx of information associated with so many unknowns. Pay attention to both the source and amount of news you’re consuming. Try to avoid the media outlets that can deliver alarming information, as this can be traumatizing, particularly for those already susceptible to experiencing germaphobia, anxiety, and panic disorder.
When anxiety begins to affect our daily ability to function, it can become problematic. Identifying what we can control is a crucial step towards positively managing your mental well-being at this time.
8 ways to relieve your COVID-19 stress and anxiety
Learning to manage your anxiety is crucial during any time of uncertainty. It will not only help you make better, healthier decisions, but it will also improve your reaction to the crisis, support your immune response and help you weather uncertainty such as this novel outbreak of COVID-19.
- Educate yourself. Refer to official sites and sources for the latest information. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide factual and helpful information to the public with the latest statistics and preventative measures that should be taken. Understand what it feels like to be informed versus overwhelmed with information. Find the right balance for you and strive to be informed at the point of protecting yourself and your family without stopping you from living your life and being able to cope or function.
- Assess your risk. According to the CDC, there are four risk levels to keep in mind. By acting appropriately to your risk level, you can be prepared and stay realistic, avoiding the excessive worry or panic that can impair your mental health.
- Practice healthy habits. Both flu and coronaviruses are spread through everyday contact, through touch, a cough, or a sneeze. Embracing healthy habits and good hygiene is the element you have the most control over. Practicing respiratory etiquette, hand hygiene, and sanitizing commonly used surfaces, are essential in preventing risk and helpful when you feel powerless. Many of us are in the habit of continuing with our daily life even when feeling sick, however it’s important for the containment of any illness that we stay home to rest and recover, until we are sure we are no longer contagious.
- Keep Perspective. Though it is important to stay informed, it’s also important to keep perspective to avoid any increased anxiety, which can fuel any catastrophizing thoughts. Try to spend time on the positive and important things in your life to help you keep your perspective in check.
- Balance the reaction. It can feel scary to hear about something new and unknown. Health outbreaks like COVID-19 and other illnesses, as well as global disasters such as climate change, war, famine, and so on, are alarming. To balance your brain’s normal reaction to threat (the fight or flight response), try to consider the actual risk to you to help bring in your rational thoughts.
- Stay connected. Having a support network of people to talk to when you’re feeling anxious can help to keep you grounded and help you to keep the perspective you need.
- Use your coping skills. If you have experienced anxiety in other areas of your life in the past, reach to those tried and tested practices that have been helpful and successful for you, i.e. regular routines, mindfulness, meditation, self-care, exercise, or extra sleep.
- Seek extra help. There is no need to struggle in silence. It is important to get professional mental health support if you feel you are at risk from struggling to cope or function in your basic day-to-day activities. If you feel happier talking to someone from the comfort of your own space, then talking to a therapist via text, audio or video sessions can be particularly beneficial.
Positive health habits for positive mental well-being
Health outbreaks like COVID-19 and other illnesses, as well as global disasters, such as climate change, war, famine, etc., can be alarming and can negatively impact our mental well-being. Therefore it’s essential to build practices and mental habits that protect us from any cumulative stress and anxiety that we may face. Committing to building healthy habits becomes even more critical to our daily life and it’s vital to recognize that sleep, making healthy food choices and spending time doing things we enjoy and help us relax, all help work towards maintaining positive well-being.
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