Seven Strategies for Managing Anxiety During the Coronavirus Outbreak

If you’re feeling anything like I am, you might be overwhelmed by coronavirus talk and at any given time ranging somewhere between heightened stress and full blown panic. The outbreak is hitting different cities and countries at different times but seems to be headed everywhere. In fact, a couple of weeks ago the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made the ominous claim that the virus spreading throughout the US wasn’t a matter of “if” but “when,” and unfortunately that statement seems to be proving itself true.

manage coronavirus anxiety

Over the past week things escalated quickly. A wave of school, bar, and restaurant closures swept the nation, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared this virus a pandemic, large gatherings and sporting events were cancelled, the White House declared a national emergency, and many offices recommended or mandated that employees work from home (if you need tips on how to stay productive while working from home look no further).

The situation is really scary, and according to experts it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Whether you’re worried about contracting the virus, unwittingly passing it onto an immunocompromised loved one, or are out of work and worried about making ends meet you’re likely feeling a lot of anxiety right now. Try these seven strategies to manage your coronavirus related anxiety and keep as calm as possible over the coming weeks and months.

Heed expert advice

The best thing you can do to reduce long term anxiety about this pandemic is to do as much as possible to be part of the solution and minimize the severity of outbreaks. Experts recommend “social distancing” even if you’re not experiencing any symptoms because by reducing person to person contact we can slow the growth curve of the illness and prevent it from overwhelming our healthcare systems. By practicing social distancing, we can increase the likelihood that those who do contract severe cases of coronavirus are able to get adequate treatment and ultimately reduce the mortality rate.

I know it’s hard to grasp the concept that choosing to stay home and watch Netflix instead of going out with friends can literally save lives, but in this situation it can. Do your part to create social distance and there will actually be less to be anxious about.

Disconnect from media coverage

In such a rapidly evolving situation, it’s critical to stay as informed as possible. That being said, sometimes being too informed can be detrimental to your mental health. Consider dedicating an hour or two a day to completely disconnecting from media coverage surrounding coronavirus. Whether you want to read a book, play a game, or watch a movie, taking time to dedicate your thoughts to something completely unrelated to the current situation can serve as a much needed mental breath of fresh air.

Additionally, feel free to speak up if all the coronavirus talk is getting to you and you need time with friends, family, or coworkers to focus on other topics.  

Reconnect with a hobby

If you’re stuck at home and looking for something to do besides scrolling through Twitter and working yourself into a panic over coronavirus, this is a perfect opportunity to reconnect with your old hobbies or start a new one. Always been intrigued by making your own sourdough but don’t have the time to babysit the dough (it’s seriously high maintenance) during the week? Love doing puzzles but never get around to it? Made a New Years’ Resolution to read more? This is your perfect chance to focus on those things and take your mind off of the crazy situation that’s happening.

Go outside

While coronavirus is incredibly contagious, it’s spread through person to person contact so spending time outdoors (as long as you’re not in a crowded environment) is relatively low risk. Not only does taking a walk around the block or spending an hour at the park give you something to look forward to and break up the monotony of self-quarantining day after day, spending time outdoors has proven mental and physical health benefits from fighting depression to aiding recovery for hospital patients.

Move

Similarly, make sure that despite calls for social distancing you continue to prioritize getting in a workout. Even if you’re uncomfortable going to the gym or if your gym is closing it’s still totally possible to get in your daily sweat sesh.

Consider going for a walk, run, or bike ride outdoors where you’re unlikely to come into physical contact with other people, or if those workouts aren’t your thing turn to the internet for a plethora of free at home workouts. Need somewhere to start? Check out the aSweatLife YouTube channel for content that will keep you active.

Control what you can

I woke up this morning with emails unanswered, laundry to do, and an apartment that was a mess. On top of everything, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that there’s a pandemic happening, and I started to get very stressed very quickly. While there’s little I can actively do about coronavirus, the other stressors were things I could get under control.

After taking care of all my other chores and obligations I started to feel more in control and my general anxiety levels significantly decreased. During uncertain times, one of the best things you can do to manage your anxiety is to stay on top of the things you can control and work to mitigate stress in other areas of your life.

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About Kira Schreiber

After growing up in the Chicago suburbs, Kira moved to Los Angeles for college. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology, she’s passionate about helping people take care of their mental and physical health. By day, she works full time in the nonprofit sector at a mental health clinic. Kira is an advocate for making healthy food taste good and loves to spend time in the kitchen developing healthy recipes. When not in the office or the kitchen, she loves to take advantage of everything Southern California has to offer and stay active outdoors by biking along the beach and hiking.

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