Covid-19: How to keep your anxiety under control
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads across the globe, more people are becoming anxious about what could happen. After all, in China and most recently Italy we’ve seen towns and cities placed in quarantine, travel restrictions put in place, people panic-buying masks and hand sanitizer, and stocking up on food.
In recent weeks our data has seen an increase in anxiety-related emotions, which is unsurprising as global disease outbreaks can be scary, and as the threat, real or perceived grows people increasingly exhibit anxiety-related behaviors. Individuals with existing mental health issues are particularly vulnerable to the influences of widespread panic.
Ways to keep your mental health in good shape
Although it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious during a health crisis, there are things you can do to help yourself feel less stressed:
Think about your access to media and social media
The media and social media are doing a very good job of scaring people into believing the outbreak is something we need to constantly worry about, as they focus on the impact on people’s health and what’s being done to contain the outbreaks. Sometimes it sounds like something from a Hollywood blockbuster.
And when it comes to social media, nothing spreads quicker than fake news.
If you find yourself becoming too stressed, anxious and panicked, then switch off for a while to calm down. Then work on finding a balance between avoiding the news completely and keeping yourself informed and educated.
Scientists and public health officials around the globe are working overtime to understand the virus, so use reputable sources for information such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO).
Don’t inflate the risk
Inflating the risk and catastrophizing is an unhealthy thinking pattern. And nothing gets the brain’s attention more than an unknown scary virus, making it so easy to take the perceived threat and inflate the risk that the worst will happen to us or our loved ones. It’s all part of our body’s fight-or-flight response.
And yes, COVID-19 is a brand new virus with no known cure or vaccine, which is why it is spreading rapidly and has so much news coverage; but at the moment the possibility of catching it is greater than the actual probability.
When it comes to risk, WHO states: “If you are not in an area where COVID-19 is spreading, or if you have not traveled from one of those areas or have not been in close contact with someone who has and is feeling unwell, your chances of getting it are currently low. However, it’s understandable that you may feel stressed and anxious about the situation. It’s a good idea to get the facts to help you accurately determine your risks so that you can take reasonable precautions. Your healthcare provider, your national public health authority and your employer are all potential sources of accurate information on COVID-19 and whether it is in your area. It is important to be informed of the situation where you live and take appropriate measures to protect yourself.
“If you are in an area where there is an outbreak of COVID-19 you need to take the risk of infection seriously. Follow the advice issued by national and local health authorities. Although for most people COVID-19 causes only mild illness, it can make some people very ill. More rarely, the disease can be fatal. Older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes) appear to be more vulnerable.”
The California Department of Public Health agrees, stating: “While COVID-19 has a high transmission rate, it has a low mortality rate. From the international data we have, of those who have tested positive for COVID-19, approximately 80 percent do not exhibit symptoms that would require hospitalization.”
Use past coping mechanisms
In times of anxiety it’s important to acknowledge those feelings to prevent that anxiety spiraling out of control, and then use techniques that have worked previously to reduce those anxiety levels so you can take back control.
Techniques that help relieve stress and anxiety include; self-talk, talking to a friend or family member, meditation, mindfulness, and journaling.
Ways to minimize your risk of COVID-19 infection
According to The Scientist publication: “Like the flu, COVID-19 is spread primarily via respiratory droplets — little blobs of liquid released as someone coughs, sneezes, or talks. Viruses contained in these droplets can infect other people via the eyes, nose, or mouth — either when they land directly on somebody’s face or when they’re transferred there by people touching their faces with contaminated hands.“Because respiratory droplets are too heavy to remain suspended in the air, direct person-to-person transmission normally only happens when people are in close contact — within about six feet of each other, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”
The following are things that you can do to help minimize your risk of infection:
- Wash your hands
After going to the bathroom, before eating, when you come in from outdoors, having touched a door handle, subway door, etc., wash your hands.
CDC guidelines indicate that you need to wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, that’s as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice, and dry your hands on a paper towel, not an air dryer. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze, and then throw it away and wash your hands.
- Avoid touching your face, especially eyes or mouth
Unless you’ve just washed your hands, try and avoid touching your face.
- Stay at home if you’re sick
Officials worldwide advise staying home if you don’t feel well. Chances are you won’t have COVID-19, but it’s best to call your healthcare provider instead.
- Keep surfaces clean
Use a disinfectant spray or wipe on ‘high-touch’ surfaces such as door handles, light switches, remote controls, phones, and keys.
- Stay away from sick people
COVID-19 is very contagious.
At the end of the day, worrying doesn’t and won’t change anything.
So try to tackle the things you can control such as practicing good hygiene, limit media and make a plan, but try not to panic about things you can’t control.
Here at Feel,one of our program goals is to help you develop long-term, positive emotional habits. The program combines continuous emotion tracking with psychotherapy and for the first time uses objective data to deliver on-time mental health support when you need it the most. For more information visit Feel.