Coronavirus: Coping with Anxiety
In the midst of a crisis it's easy to get carried away by worry. Here are some ways to ease the stress.
Mar 18, 2020 | 3 comments
What would you do if you had nothing, but time?
Well, maybe not completely nothing. You’d still have a roof over your head, food in your pantry, and your family by your side. And then you’d have time.
With the coronavirus pandemic news scaring us daily, it’s easy to get carried away. It’s natural to panic and to feel anxious.
“Will I or someone in my family get sick?” “How will this affect my business?” “Will I be able to still pay my rent, mortgage, my bills?”
These are the questions we all ask ourselves. As when we look for answers and don’t find them, our anxiety can rise quickly.
It is a scary time. And it’s ok to be scared. It really is. But it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together. We might be isolated, quarantined, and hidden in our own homes. But it’s in the times like this we learn, or rather, we remember that we’re all human, we’re all scared, and we can all come together to make it just a tiny bit easier for each other.
We can do hard things. And we can do them better together.
Remember, a crisis shows us what is really important. It takes away things that don’t really matter and leaves us those that really do. We have a chance to focus on our families. It allows us to be there for each other.
When we look back at this time perhaps we will not remember the crowded grocery stores or the anxiety over the next paycheck. Perhaps when our kids, years from now, look at this time, they will instead remember that special recipe you made from the few ingredients you had at hand and how it took all day to make. And you had all day. Perhaps they will remember the games you played together and the songs you sang. Maybe you will remember their smiling faces and not the faces of people wearing medical masks on the news footage.
Perhaps if we stop worrying about what can happen tomorrow, we can instead create memories of now.
We can’t control what happens around us right now. But there are things we can control.
Here is what we can do to lower our anxiety, ensure the wellbeing of our loved ones and ourselves, and ride this out in a brave, supportive, and compassionate way.
1. Breathe. Know. Feel.
Keeping calm in the face of the coronavirus pandemic is not something that comes easily. And yes, saying “we all need to calm down” does nothing but make us even more anxious.
So perhaps the answer is not to bury our anxiety and hide our fears. Perhaps the answer is to sit still and acknowledge that we’re scared and it’s ok to be right now.
Mindfulness and acknowledgement of anxiety can help soften the unpleasant feelings. If you have not tried meditation perhaps it is a good time to start. Meditation statistics prove that it can be a great tool. It can help reduce stress, fight insomnia, and even boost the immune system.
- Improved anxiety levels 60% of the time.
- Can reduce the risk of being hospitalized for coronary disease by 87%.
- Relieves the symptoms of insomnia 75% of the time.
- Can increase employees’ productivity by 120%.
- Can reduce PMS symptoms by 57%
Meditation app creators of 10% Happier released a special free resource that includes life streaming, podcasts, talks, and guided meditations to help people deal with the stresses of the coronavirus.
Source: 10% happier
Knowing that, like anything, this pandemic is temporary can be a helpful reminder. The precautions people, organizations, and governments now take will help slow down the spread of the illness. Business closures, event cancellations, and the practice of social distancing can be inconvenient and stress-inducing. But it will help in the long run.
According to the World Health Organization, Wuhan, China, the city of the virus’ origin, has been seeing a reduction in new coronavirus cases.
So this too shall pass. Know that. Feel what you need to feel. And breathe. It will all be ok.
2. Connect with your people. And with other people, too.
Social distancing does not mean social isolation.
We all miss our daily activities, be it just the routine of going to the office, dropping the kids at school, attending events, or enjoying regular hobbies. That’s ok. We all feel sad and out of place a bit as we adjust to the new normal.
But it’s time like this that can serve us in the long run. It’s a reminder not to take everything we normally do for granted. It’s a reminder that as much as we get caught up in our daily routines, we are all in need of social contact.
So now we can take the situation as an opportunity to reconnect with our families. It is also an opportunity to make new connections in creative ways.
We are lucky we live in 2020, where technology is so much incorporated into our lives. We can connect with loved ones and friends not only through phone, but through text messaging and video calls. Doing so will ease our anxiety about everyone’s well being.
So call your mom, call your grandma, skype with your long-lost friend because now you have more time to do so. Now you have more need to do so, too.
Minnesota man visits his father in nursing home; Source: Fox 29
We might not be able to engage in community activities in person, but we can still connect with our communities.
These days social clubs host online video sessions, neighbors engage in balcony sing-alongs, and people become pen pals with nursing home residents just to lift their spirits. All these examples not only help us connect, but also remind us in the strength we all share when we stand together.
This is how we unite on the truly human level.
In addition to personal connection, we can come together to help small businesses that are hurting due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Many restaurants offer no-contact pick-up and delivery options. Stores find creative ways to keep going.
So get creative, stay engaged, keep connected. It will help lift everyone’s spirits as well as your own.
3. Address situation with kids. And listen.
Perhaps one of the big parts of our own anxiety is the worry about our loved ones. How do our kids feel? Mass media constantly bombards us with news of global catastrophe. The most vulnerable might not be able to openly speak about their anxious feelings.
So talk to your kids. Ask them what is going on in their lives? See what they are willing to share. Provide love and support. Don’t offer advice unless asked for one, just listen. Most of the time, people only want to be heard.
It’s important to stay calm and, while acknowledging that there is a crisis, to reassure the kids that it will all be ok.
“Your family is together on an airplane right now, and there’s some serious turbulence. The kids are afraid. What do we do when we’re afraid on an airplane? We look at the flight attendants. If they seem scared, we panic, too. If they seem calm, we stay calm. So what I’m telling you is that you are the flight attendant in this scenario, and you’ve been through enough turbulence to know you’ll all make it. Your kids are new to flying, so they’re going to look to you to see whether they’re okay. Your job right now is to stay calm, smile—and keep serving the freaking peanuts.” Glennon Doyle, Untamed
Tips about how to talk to your children about coronavirus.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about coronavirus. Use this as an opportunity about facts.
- Be developmentally appropriate. Answer them honestly. Don’t share too much at once to avoid overwhelm. Encourage questions, correct misinformation.
- Deal with your own anxiety first. Stay calm and reassuring.
- Focus on what you can do – wash hands, stick to routines, structure days.
- Keep talking, continue to inform.
4. Stay healthy and implement self-care.
When we are confined to our own quarters, it’s easy to let things go. Slumming around in pajama pants while finishing up the last of the “quarantine” potato chips might seem like a viable option.
However, it’s important to stay engaged in healthy activities to keep up the spirits. For example, don’t forget about your oral health or exercising regularly.
The gyms and health clubs might be closed, but it doesn’t mean we have to give up on exercising. At home exercise equipment will come handy, so dust off that treadmill and pull out those weights.
Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate. (Anxiety and Depression Association of America)
No equipment? Unmotivated to workout alone? No problem!
The variety of simple free workouts streaming on platforms like Amazon Prime and Youtube leaves no room for excuses. From yoga to high intensity cardio routines, there is something for everyone, no matter the fitness level.
Once again, technology comes to our rescue as some gyms and fitness instructors also offer live streaming of simple to follow workouts. So you can still connect with your people and get your sweat on.
With extra time on our hands it’s a perfect opportunity to finally get back to those new year’s resolutions.
5. Stay active and explore.
Art, music, books, games – those are the activities that have evolved alongside humans since the beginning of time. So it only makes sense that as we are forced to slow down we turn back to them.
Get out those paint brushes and adult coloring books someone gave to you on your last birthday. Watch a tutorial or a live stream on how to draw with your kids. See how you can help others remotely. Try a new recipe. Play a good video game. Read that book you’ve been putting off. Clean. Play a board game. Journal. Write a letter. Make your own lotion. Sing. Dance in your living room.
Coronavirus might have closed down your business and your educational institution. It might have forced you to stay in your house. It did not make you stop living. So live. Do what makes you feel good.
Turn off the news and be with your people. If you feel anxious, allow yourself to feel, but know that it will all be ok in the end. If it’s not then it’s not the end yet. But we will get there. Together.
What would you do if you had nothing, but time?