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December 08, 2020

Coping with COVID-19 Anxiety and Uncertainty

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re not alone. It can be challenging to navigate through all of the uncertainties arising from coronavirus. We aren’t sure how long this situation will last, when effective treatments and vaccines GettyImages-1213646192will be developed, and how this infectious disease might impact us personally. 

So, what’s the best way to respond?

HelpGuide.org suggests getting information from quality sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization. That way, you can avoid much of the misinformation that’s spreading. Stay connected and informed, but don’t obsess over checking the latest public health updates. This can cause you to feel even more anxious. Before spreading information about the COVID-19 pandemic that may or may not be true, there are places where you can factcheck the info

If you feel anxious about the spread of COVID-19, it can help to focus on stopping the spread — doing what’s in your personal control. This includes staying home when you can, avoiding groups of more than 10 people, social distancing, washing your hands often, and otherwise following the recommendations of public health experts.

Also find ways to stay connected, even if you can’t physically be with friends and family. This can include phone calls, Zoom get-togethers, social media, and more. 

Take good care of yourself, eat healthy foods, get enough rest, drink enough water, and so forth. Go for walks in nature, if possible, meditate or practice yoga if that helps, and participate in activities you enjoy, whether that’s reading, making crafts, or creating a new recipe. Avoid overuse of alcohol. 

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has more tips for when you feel anxious. They include not over-reacting when you get symptoms of colds and allergies or continuing checking in with yourself to see if you have any signs of infectious disease. This can add to your worries, without being helpful. 

Although stopping the spread of COVID-19 is important, going beyond the measures recommended by public health officials — perhaps through compulsive handwashing or changing your clothes before going back into your home — can actually increase your state of anxiety. 

Finding ways to help other people can help you to take your attention off yourself while helping others in the meantime. Also, when feeling overwhelmed, be kind to yourself. How would you react if a treasured friend shared her anxiety about the coronavirus? Treat yourself that way!

You can also follow the lead of USNews.com by focusing on the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic. These include how we’re cooking at home more and sitting down together at mealtimes. This can allow people to reconnect in ways that we didn’t always make time for before. Many people are outdoors more often, walking, hiking, or biking. (There’s an app, All Trails, that can help you find new places to get outdoors, and provide you with social distancing information.) Many of us are paying closer attention to our immune systems to stay healthy. 

These are all silver linings, and you probably have personal ones to add to your list. 

NextAvenue.org suggests that you also acknowledge the fear, sharing the perspective of a Buddhist monk—that you can’t totally prevent fear. It is a natural response to a challenging situation. By accepting your emotions as natural, this can “help to settle the mind.” 

If you find that your anxiety continues to grow, though, reach out for help. You can talk to your primary care physician and ask for recommendations for a therapist. Many of them are offering telehealth services, so you can get the help you need while staying at home. You can also find a mental health professional through ADAA.

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