Everyone has been talking about the Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19. It’s all over the news, it’s pervading daily conversation, and it’s supposedly pretty scary for our older population, particularly those with underlying severe, chronic health conditions. This global epidemic (and some may call it a full-fledged pandemic) is impacting our global health, economy and way of life as we know it.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.”
Common signs mimic a common cold or flu, with respiratory symptoms such as a cough, fever, shortness of breath or trouble breathing.
As more and more confirmed cases start popping up all around us, anxiety naturally increases.
WHAT IS ANXIETY?
Anxiety is like worry on caffeine. Anxiety is our brain’s way of letting us know that something is unsafe, dangerous or potentially harmful/deadly. We are survival creatures and we don’t like things to disrupt our safe, consistent routine. COVID-19 has begun to do just that.
Anxiety is adaptive. If we sense danger (even perceived danger), our brain perks up and gets our body ready for action to fight, run or freeze. This is how we protect ourselves and those we love.
Anxiety is only good until a certain level. Because anxiety motivates us and keeps us safe, it works great for short bursts and for specific situations. What happens when we are overly anxious for too long of a time? It’s different for everyone, but if we are too anxious, it no longer helps us, and it can begin to interfere with our daily life. We may be recluse, avoid, become depressed or even develop panic attacks.
When we enter an unknown situation like a global viral epidemic, fears run wild. We have little past experience on what to expect, how things may change (humans hate change!) and future impact on our health – physically, emotionally, financially and economically.
We must have anxiety during this time, as it helps us become prepared to take on a threat to our existence. Yet, we still don’t know what will become in our country or in our state. For our own mental health and the mental health of our children watching how we react and respond…we must find ways to use both our emotion mind and our logic mind to stay in the WISE mind (to learn more about “wise mind”, look up Dialectical Behavior Therapy- DBT).
6 WAYS TO MANAGE ANXIETY DURING THE CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) OUTBREAK
REDUCE YOUR PREOCCUPATION WITH CORONAVIRUS NEWS
Coronavirus is undeniably a major topic of discussion in the news, but constantly listening to updates and reading stories may lead to increased anxiety. It’s also important to know which news sources are providing accurate information so you’re not distressed over news that isn’t even factual. Limit your news consumption so you can stay informed without becoming preoccupied. The WHO is a great resources as is the CDC.
Turn off the t.v. when enjoying a family meal. Turn off alerts from news outlets on your phone. Set aside one or two times a day (if needed) to look at credible news sources so that you can function throughout the rest of your day at school, work or at home.
KNOW YOUR OWN RISK OF CATCHING CORONAVIRUS
According to the CDC, the immediate risk of exposure to the Coronavirus is low for most people. Additionally, it has been reported that most cases are mild. Those who are at a greater risk for experiencing a severe Coronavirus illness are older people and those with preexisting health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes. If you fall into one or more of those categories, take extra precaution in your Coronavirus prevention.
Remember, just because you may fall into the high-risk category does NOT mean you will catch it. And if you do, it does NOT mean that you will die. It’s important to keep a rational mind about the statistics.
USE CORRECT PREVENTATIVE METHODS
While you can’t control the spread of Coronavirus, you can control how you respond to this situation. The CDC recommends these everyday actions to prevent the spread of illness:
- Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
- Clean frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Hand sanitizer is good enough in a pinch.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, eyes, and nose.
- There’s no need to wear a mask. Save them for medical professionals and those who are ill.
This is a big life lesson of learn to control what we can, and accept what we cannot. Germs spread. It’s actually incredible if you think about it, how much our bodies can take on a daily basis with the germs we come into contact with every day. Our bodies are resilient and self-repair constantly. We know what we need to do to do our best in controlling the spread of all germs.
CREATE A PLAN OF ACTION
Talk with those in your household about what to do if Coronavirus spreads to your community. Assess the needs of each person, especially those who are at an increased risk of developing severe complications. Learn about the resources that are available to you in case you need health care services, information, or any additional support. Stay in contact with your work, your child’s school, and local agencies about any upcoming closings or modifications in gatherings.
If it helps, stock up on some necessary supplies like toilet paper, medications, canned and boxed foods, frozen foods, and other supplies that you may need if in your home for 2-4 weeks. Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. This is true in times of uncertainty and can really slow the rise of anxiety.
RECOGNIZE THAT IT’S NORMAL TO BE WORRIED ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS
Since we do not yet know everything about the Coronavirus, it’s definitely ok to be worried. Having some anxiety might even encourage you to take preventative measures (like washing your hands more than usual) which, in turn, will reduce your risk of getting sick. However, stressing over the fact that you’re anxious about the Coronavirus will only make the cycle worse.
Stress increases cortisol and other hormones that make us eat worse and sleep less. This can lead to being physically and emotionally run down, with or without the Cornoavirus.
These are always good tips in times of stress:
- Get enough rest. Without enough sleep, our brain/body won’t function optimally.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Try to avoid the extra sugar and carbs and stock up on veges and whole foods.
- Get outside. We need some fresh air and nature to help ease anxiety.
- Move your body. Even just running up and down the stairs, going for a walk around the block or doing a dance party with your kids at home can improve mood.
- Yoga or Meditation can calm a busy mind. Start doing this with your children or partner/spouse, have fun with relaxation. Make it part of your day.
- Stay connected. Even in social distancing times, we need to remain connected (at least emotionally) to those we love.
- Power in the Pause. Start to listen to your body. Most of the time, our body knows what we are feeling before “we” know! Stop, breath, listen and be gentle with yourself.
TALK TO A MENTAL HEALTH PROVIDER…VIRTUALLY!
If your anxiety about Coronavirus is surpassing what you can handle, a little therapy won’t hurt. Anxiety often arises during times of uncertainty, but that’s when it’s most important to keep mentally healthy. Therapy can help you manage anxiety about many different things.
In today’s world, tele-mental health (otherwise known as online therapy or eTherapy) allows people to access mental health therapy from the germ-free comfort of their own home or surroundings!
Having excessive anxiety about the Coronavirus will lead to more harm than good. Use preventative methods, make a plan, and know that you’re going to be okay. Always remember that help is available if you need it, for both your physical and mental needs.