Managing anxiety related to COVID-19
As COVID-19 turns day-to-day life into something unrecognisable, managing your reaction to the pandemic is going to be key in staying mentally healthy over the next few months. The unknown is naturally a trigger for worry, but what you do in response to this gives you a lot of control over how you feel about your life. I thought I’d share a few simple ways you can take to protect yourself from unnecessary stress during these times (and none of them have anything to do with hoarding toilet paper or pasta).
1. Limit your exposure to news and the topic of COVID-19. This means that passively exposing yourself to an overblown 24/7 news cycle can be problematic, and and starting to clearly differentiate between what’s real news and what is media speculation or hysteria can mean how big those feelings of fear and anxiety become. Be mindful of sources of information and ensure you are accessing good quality and accurate information. As an example, a story speculating how many people will be infected with COVID-19 is speculation/hysteria, while a story giving factual information on what services will be affected by restrictions is actual news. I would recommend limiting your exposure to real news to as much as you need to go about your life – 30 minutes per day max.
2. Focus on showing compassion and kindness to one another (and yourself) – in these times of fear, isolation (both physical and social) and uncertainty, it is most important that we strengthen our sense of community by connecting with, and supporting, each other. Avoid social media with toxic interactions and information. The distribution of opinions from friends/acquaintances in digital form may serve to heighten people's distress in the face of uncertainty. Related to this, you may like to be mindful of your own posting of opinions, sending emails or texts rooted in anxiety, which may only seek to induce panic and alarm in others, therefore reinforcing your own distress. Do your best to remain connected to people in positive ways, whether online or in person. You could try to engage in a whole conversation where Coronavirus is not mentioned... at all!
3. Actively manage your wellbeing by maintaining routines where possible, connect with family and friends (even if not in person), staying physically active, and eating healthy foods. Don’t forget to laugh – humour really is the best medicine. Watch a stupid comedy (not a Zombie apocalypse horror movie) – because what you take in has an impact on what you put out there to others.
It’s important to note that Psychologists and other therapists will be available at this time as we transition from seeing people in our offices, to seeing them through Telehealth for online consultations. This is more than just a matter of convenience as Telehealth psychotherapy has a growing evidence-base. I remain committed to helping my clients through these tough times.