It stands to reason that the coronavirus pandemic may have you feeling a little nervous. But if that feeling of unease spills over into coronavirus anxiety, then it’s time to take it more seriously.
The unpredictable illness which has been wreaking havoc around the globe for months has resulted in the implementation of measures like social distancing, self-isolation and remote working.
Mental health is suffering as a result, with loneliness and money concerns ranking top among the list of causes.
An online survey conducted by YouGov showed that 57% the 2000 plus respondents felt that the lockdown was taking a toll on their mental health.
Many are turning to alcohol to ease their stress, with the study also revealing that one in five Aussies have stocked up on more booze than usual over recent weeks. Furthermore, 70% are drinking more than usual.
It found that 77% of people are stressed about not seeing their family; 71% missed seeing their friends and 60% were concerned about paying their bills.
Almost half of the respondents (49%) said they feared they may lose their jobs while 48% were concerned about being unable to feed their families and 38% were stressed about losing their homes.
If the COVID-19 situation has got you concerned for your mental health, the Black Dog Institute has some expert advice and tips that may help:
Channel your anxious energy into action: get informed, plan, and prepare
We often feel anxious when events feel out of our control, and when we think we don’t have the capacity, skills or ability to cope. Anxiety tricks us into thinking about the worst-case scenarios in vivid and frightening detail.
Instead of worrying, try your best to focus on what’s under your control. Equip yourself with the facts about COVID-19 from trusted sources. Follow government advice and make a plan about what you and your family will do if you need to be in isolation, or quarantine.
Limit or avoid unhelpful media and misinformation
Being exposed to constant, alarming, anxiety-inducing stories convinces us that there is something to panic about, and further perpetuates myths, rumours, misinformation, uncertainty and anxiety. The more we read and hear about it, the more frightening it becomes, and the less chance we have to distract ourselves and do things that can take our minds off it.
Although it might be tempting to keep informed, or difficult to escape, limiting your exposure to media, news, and social media about coronavirus will help quell the panic.
Cut down or stop the behaviours that are fuelling your anxiety
There are certain actions, when performed frequently, that can fuel anxiety about health, and germ-phobia. Focusing too much on bodily symptoms, and relying on “Dr Google”, can consume one with anxious thoughts and panic.
Being aware of these behaviours, understanding how they’re making you feel, and replacing them with more helpful coping strategies can alleviate disproportionate feelings of anxiety.
Stay focused on the here and now, taking each day step by step
Try to focus on the here and now- not the past and not the future. Live in the moment and take one day at a time.
Be aware of negative thoughts and don’t give them too much power
Just because we’re thinking something, doesn’t always mean it’s true. When you notice yourself worrying a lot, take a step back, and try to let worries pass by without focussing on them too much.
Look after your body
Get enough sleep, exercise, eat well, avoid smoking, excessive alcohol and drugs. This will help protect your mental health and immune system.
Stay connected with others
It can make a huge difference when we share our worries with others, and connect with other people who are supportive. Try to stay connected to supportive people in your life so you feel less isolated and lonely. You might need try new ways of connecting that you haven’t before.
Help other people, be kind, and compassionate
When we help other people, it can also make us feel better. We are all in this together so let’s try our best to be kind and compassionate to each other.
Take a breath
When you feel overwhelmed take a few slow, deep breaths to help you calm down. If there are other things that help you relax (e.g., a walk or listening to music) you could try these too.
If you’re feeling like you’re not coping, get professional advice
It’s ok to ask for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, seek professional support. Psychological therapies can be done online, or remotely via phone or videoconferencing, and are an excellent option if you’re in self-isolation, or worried about going to a clinic.
Importantly, be assured that for most people, the anxiety will be temporary, and will reduce over time, especially once the virus has been contained.
If you have given these all a try but are still struggling, get in touch with an organisation like Black Dog which will have more help for you.
Do you have any other tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety?