The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is changing the way we live and work. Every day brings news of additional closings, stock market drops and dire health predictions. Not surprisingly, many of us are feeling anxious and stressed. We feel like the world is spinning out of control.
Lack of control is a key factor in anxiety. When you're not in control of a situation, you may create worst-case scenarios in your mind that might never actually happen. Coronavirus fears are difficult for anyone to handle, and can become crippling if you already have an anxiety disorder.
"When we don't understand something that leaves us feeling like we don't know everything we need to protect ourselves…that equates to powerless vulnerability," David Ropeik, an expert on risk communication, told USA Today.
Fortunately, it's possible to decrease your anxiety in these difficult times. These tips may help:
- Follow precautions. The best ways to reduce your risk are under your control. Wash your hands regularly. Keep your hands away from your face. Stay 6 feet away from other people. Don't go to school or work if you feel ill.
- Create a plan. This puts you in control of your response to the virus and can help relieve anxiety. Have you stocked up on food, medication and personal care items? Do you know how you'll handle childcare when schools are closed? Have you made alternate work arrangements with your employer?
- Evaluate your risk. Keep in mind that if you haven't come in close contact with someone who has the virus or visited an area with an outbreak of cases, your risk of contracting the virus is likely low.
- Educate yourself. Although the novel coronavirus can be deadly, most people survive the infection. Many only experience mild symptoms or don't even know they have it.
- Reduce news watching. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends checking the news only once or twice a day if you're feeling anxious. Choose reputable news outlets that focus on facts, not speculation.
- Find ways to relax. Go for a walk outside, meditate or watch a funny movie at home to naturally lower stress.
- Embrace healthy habits. Bolster your immune system with a healthy diet, ample amounts of sleep and regular exercise.
If your fears become overwhelming, don't suffer alone. Talk to a compassionate friend or family member. If necessary, schedule an appointment with a mental health counselor – many are offering phone or video appointments at this time.
Learn more about COVID-19 response by clicking here.
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Date Last Reviewed: March 16, 2020
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor