COVID-19 or simply known as coronavirus disease has emerged as an unprecedented health crisis. It is the first pandemic which our generation is experiencing on such a scale. The total number of cases has crossed a million at the time of this post and there is also significant mortality. So, with such alarming numbers and statistics, anxiety, stress and even depression are bound to rise. So, how can we reduce our coronavirus anxiety and be mentally healthy at this time?
To get an idea of how to reduce coronavirus anxiety and cope with it, we should try to understand why it occurs in the first place.
What is Fear?
Fear is a natural response by humans to any threat. It ensures us to avoid harm and it has helped to survive as a species. For example, on seeing a predator like a lion, it is because of fear that we run away and hence it protects.
So, what is anxiety?
Anxiety is fear usually towards an unknown situation. Although anxiety is many times not productive, this also protects us at times. For example, some are afraid of the dark. But in the dark, there is the possibility of an insect, a predator or a threat from another human.
So when is anxiety a problem? Anxiety becomes a problem when it is counterproductive and causes distress to us. It starts affecting our daily lives, it occupies our mind at the cost of other thoughts and it can also cause mental agony and suffering.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Symptoms of anxiety could be in the body or the mind. You may have a faster heart rate or palpitations, breathlessness, tremors, sweating, restlessness, muscle tension, numbness sensations, headache, chest pain, abdomen pain, etc or symptoms like extreme fear, feeling of losing control, worry, fear of dying, or fear of going mad. This anxiety may be present most of the time throughout the day or it may occur in short episodes many times. In this current situation, one important symptom is fear of getting the COVID-19 disease. So, when someone who is already fearful, has some mild symptoms like tiredness or cough or sneezing, they may think that they have got the disease. This cause even more anxiety and they may either start avoiding others thinking that they are going to die or they may unnecessarily go to hospitals and increase risk of exposure. So, the thing to remember is that such thoughts and fear is very common and that you are not the only person having such fear of getting or already having the disease.
Coronavirus Anxiety – How to reduce anxiety due to Coronavirus?
We should remember that we are all in this together and that any fear that we have is probably shared by many others. We should also remember that anxiety is something that can be reduced and controlled by certain actions. Although we may feel overwhelmed by the current situation, it is not impossible to overcome. Some simple changes can go a long way in helping to reduce anxiety due to coronavirus.
Things that we can do to reduce anxiety due to coronavirus
Learn to do deep breathing exercises or some form of relaxation
Deep breathing is an excellent temporary solution to ward off anxiety. If you learn to deep breathe, you can use it during times of anxiety and hence calm both your mind and body. It is easy to learn but you have to believe that it works. You may have a doubt if something like this will work, but many patients have benefitted by deep breathing for many other anxieties. It goes like this. In your mind, Count 1 to 4 for each breath in and again count 1 to 4 for each breath out. You should do this for at least 10 minutes at a stretch. Within a few days, you may start seeing results. Other relaxation methods like progressive muscle relaxation will also be very effective.
Distracting here means doing a purposive action that makes you become distracted from thoughts of worry related to coronavirus. The action should be something physical. It is very difficult to distract a disturbing thought with another thought. So, some things like cleaning parts of your house, cleaning your car, arranging some things, listening to your favourite music, seeing your favourite comedy show or movie, dancing, etc can really help to distract yourself from restlessness. Being a part of certain challenges or nationwide activities may appear futile to others but if it is something that distracts you from the negative thoughts, who are we to question? We can do anything to distract ourselves as long as it does not harm ourselves or others.
Talking to others
This does not mean that you should constantly talk to your family and friends about your disturbing thoughts and also infect them with your negativity. Although seeking reassurance from others may help at times, we should remember that we are having varying levels of anxiety due to coronavirus. Rather, while talking to others, we should try to make it a point to talk about anything other than coronavirus. This will help you to take your mind off of it and also help the person whom you are talking to. Even if you are not able to stay with them in person, you can talk to them over phone or Whatsapp or skype. Especially if you are alone and separated from your loved ones over long distances, you should try to make more frequent communication. Like, if you used to talk to your family once in 2days, you should make it a point talk every day. If you used to talk once every day, you should talk twice and so on. We are all social beings and being connected is very important at this time of social distancing.
Maintaining a daily schedule that includes a healthy mixture of work and fun
Instead of just thinking that I should do this and that, if you make a schedule you are more likely to stick to it. You should definitely plan to have fun. It may be any kind of fun like activity sessions or games with other family members which include cards, board games, video games, etc or watching a comedy film together with others or trying out new things with someone you love. But, the point is to plan to have fun.
A healthy body can lead to a healthy mind. Though it may be difficult now because of the closure of gyms, you can make it point to have some form of physical activity every day. It need not be structured training. It can be just a few push-ups or walking around your house for some time or even playing hide and seek with your kids ( it is a really tiring activity ).
Seeking professional help
Despite all this, if you have anxiety or if you already seeing a psychiatrist or a therapist any psychiatric illness, you should seek professional help. Many psychiatrist and psychologist offer online counselling and treatment services. Here at MindHealthClinic.com, you can avail the free telepsychiatry services if you are not able to see your psychiatrist due to lockdown or if you have overwhelming anxiety or Depression. We offer telepsychiatry service by Whatsapp from 5 pm to 8 pm every day till April 30, 2020. You can message the Whatsapp number by clicking here.
Things we should NOT do to reduce anxiety due to coronavirus
Avoid watching too much news related to COVID-19
Most of know about the preventive measures and also about the seriousness of the illness. We understand the deadly nature of the disease. But there is no point in repeatedly checking the number of new cases or deaths every day. It affects you at a subconscious level and creates undue anxiety. When you are looking at such sites that offer data, though it may appear like a score in the match, deep down you know that it is the reflection of people suffering. So, it can affect you and increase your negativity. This also relates to too much time in social media because most of them offer such data in plentitude. Of course, this does not mean that we should be ignorant and start flouting norms.
Avoid talking too much about coronavirus to others
As already mentioned, doing so will compound each other’s anxiety. It will increase your depressive feelings and make it difficult to see beyond the current predicament. Learn from them of the methods they employ to cope up with this situation rather than the negative aspects of the illness.
Avoid developing an addiction or any activity which you may regret later
Since we may have more time on our hands and maybe either working from home or not having a job, we may be pushed to activities like gambling in the hoping of earning or for fun. But we have to remember that this a slippery slope and has the potential to have negative consequences in future. So any activity which has a potential for addiction, like excessively drinking alcohol or other substances, excess pornography, etc should be avoided.
Avoid taking your frustration on others
Because of the forced nature of social distancing and lockdown, we may be in a state of frustration. For those who have been in the habit of going out, it may be very frustrating to stay at home all day. Similarly, for homemakers, there may be frustration due to more work due to lack of house help, presence of children all the time with their tendency towards mischief and mayhem and added responsibilities. In such situations, it is easy to take out our frustration on others which is an immature defense mechanism called displacement. But this would start a negative cycle and may disrupt relationships. The last thing we need at this time is to distance ourselves from our loved ones. So, in order to prevent this, if you are frustrated, try to empathise and think from other’s point of view and this step alone may be enough to make you reconsider the situation. Employ any relaxation technique if you feel the situation going out of hand.
Avoid becoming lethargic
In this situation, it is easy to curl up on your bed and not do anything. Since there is not much do, you can slowly start avoiding even things that you should do. This can include things like helping around the house, buying things from shops and can progress to even taking care of yourself. You may skip meals or at least have at inappropriate times. You may neglect bath or personal hygiene. You may not sleep much or oversleep. This should be avoided at all costs. Keeping ourselves active will make our mind be alert too.
Stay at home. Stay healthy and safe
By following some of these guidelines, we can reduce anxiety due to coronavirus. The summary of this post is listed below for easy reference. In this difficult and troubling times, let us resolve to do our best to help ourselves and others. We can overcome coronavirus anxiety and be healthy and happy.
Mindhealthclinic.com is a psychiatry clinic which offers FREE psychiatry consultation and treatment through Whatsapp from 5 pm to 8 pm every day during this period of crisis.
You can approach us by using this Whatsapp link