Tips for managing anxieties and mental health during coronavirus pandemic

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By Jacquelyn Maser
Mental Health Counselor
March 17, 2020

Over the last couple of days, Coronavirus has become front and center in the media and you have likely been inundated with information and concerns. It is important to be mindful that situations such as this can cause tremendous stress and anxiety and it is of the upmost importance that we maintain our mental health as well as our physical health. The body under mental stress is more susceptible to illness. Keep your mind healthy to help keep your body healthy.

You will no doubt find yourself worried during these uncertain times, because anxiety thrives on uncertainty. There are many things you can do to help yourself stay calm and rational. I have outlined below many things you can try as well as websites for additional resources.

Tips for managing anxiety:

  1. Stay present. Whatever plans need to be changed, change them, and handle anything that needs to be handled, but try not to let your mind go to the what-ifs. As an anxious person, during times like this, you have to constantly say to yourself "Right now, you're ok.”

  2. Feel your feelings, but don't get stuck dwelling on "why did this happen?". It is a huge mental energy drain and accomplishes nothing.

  3. Get information from the right sources; right from the CDC or WHO rather than the news.

  4. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation. Learning to sit in silence and breathe or observe your thoughts as a spectator has tremendous benefits in improving both physical and mental health by slowing the heart rate and restoring equilibrium to your body.

  5. Take care of your health. Sleep well, eat well and exercise. Healthy eating habits and adequate sleep are essential in preventing illness and boosting immunity. Exercise will also help you to burn off anxious energy and boost immunity. You can exercise outdoors or at home if you are not comfortable attending a gym.

  6. The more you focus on it, the more it will grow. If you constantly watch the news, click on every article that you see, and speak about it constantly with colleagues and friends; your fears will grow. Instead, choose a reputable source like WHO or CDC to check for your information and limit your exposure otherwise. Set boundaries with yourself on how frequently you will check for updates so that you are giving your mind a break from the information, while also staying informed. You are not being ignorant by limiting your exposure, you are discerning; and discernment is necessary to make rational, intelligent, clear decisions about the precautions you will take.

  7. Accept and focus on what you can control and what you cannot. Remind yourself that many of the efforts in place right now are proactive, rather than reactive measures and find peace by reminding yourself that you are taking all necessary precautions to be as safe as possible. We don’t always have control over what happens but we can control how we choose to respond. Choose to exercise the best precautions you can within your control. 

    1. Physical Precautions: Follow guidelines on washing your hands and sanitization.

    2. Social Precautions: Avoid or limit huge gatherings but don’t isolate yourself! You should still go outdoors. You should still keep in contact with friends and family, even if it must be over the phone and video calls for a while.

    3. Work: Discuss the possibility of working from home when and if appropriate. Stay home if you or those living in your home are sick. And if you do get stuck at home with your kids or your parents and you are in dire need of tips for surviving that… don’t worry. I have some of those for you too.   

  8. Practice distinguishing healthy fear from irrational fear. Fear and anxiety are helpful. They motivate us to take precautions and actions to stay safe. But it can become excessive and harmful if you allow it to. When you find yourself tempted to dive into more clickbait or worrying about something frequently, ask yourself “Is this worry helpful? Is what I am worrying about within my control?”

Keep in mind that if you already have a diagnosis of OCD, paranoia, or an Anxiety Disorder, your mental health may be more susceptible to taking a toll during this time. It is all that more important for you to practice healthy physical and mental habits and coping skills. Be sure to keep consistent contact with your Mental Health Provider and Primary Care Physician to monitor your medications and mental health symptoms as needed.    

Shout out to all the Extroverts: social distancing can be difficult and depressing. You may struggle with it more than your introverted counterparts. Use apps like FaceTime and be sure you are actively taking steps to socialize in positive and safe ways to prevent depression. 

Lastly, here is a short video on Ways to Fight Coronavirus Anxieties. Please note that it will not play in Internet Explorer and you may have to copy and paste the link into Firefox or Chrome.

Be Well, Be Happy, Be Safe.