Feeling stressed, anxious, worried, frustrated, sad or lonely is normal during a pandemic. These are frightening times. We’re all watching the headlines wondering when and how this is going to end. Some of us live in areas where Coronavirus cases are quickly rising while businesses are trying to find ways to reopen safely.
Perhaps the hardest thing to deal with for many is the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. We don’t know how this is going to affect us, how much longer it will last or how bad things might get. People tend to react more strongly to threats they’re not familiar with. For example, we know car accidents are common but driving to work every day doesn’t feel scary because we’re used to it.
We feel less afraid the more we know about a possible threat, which is why we spend so much time looking for updates on the internet, but this can easily lead to rumination and catastrophizing.
Still, there are some things you can do to manage your anxiety, even when faced with such a unique crisis.
As we mentioned in the introduction, familiarizing ourselves with the implications of a threat eases anxiety, but it can spiral into rumination. It’s important to stay informed so you can protect yourself and help slow down the spread of the coronavirus. At the same time, you should keep in mind that there is a lot of misinformation going around, so you need to pick your sources carefully.
Uncertainty and the anxiety that comes with it can motivate some people to follow unproven prevention methods and remedies. Some can even be harmful both to you as an individual, as well as to the community as a whole. A better approach is to follow the guidelines set by trustworthy sources such as the World Health Organization and your local public health authorities. If you start to feel overwhelmed by the incessant sensationalistic coverage, take a break and limit your media consumption to a specific time-frame.
During this time, there will be things you can’t control, such as the actions of other people, the impact the pandemic will have on your community or how long it will last. We know that’s hard to accept, but fixating on these things isn’t productive. It will only feed your anxiety and make you feel drained and overwhelmed.
Instead, it’s better to shift your focus to the things you have more power over such as actions you can take to reduce your personal risk. You can avoid crowds and non-essential travel, keep your distance from others, wash your hands and wear a mask.
It’s normal to feel worried, scared or anxious. Remember that we’re all going through the same thing, so it’s ok to talk about your concern with people you trust. This might help them as well.
It’s also important to be proactive about your mental health. If you feel that the stress caused by the pandemic has had a strong impact on your psychological well-being and talking to close friends and family members hasn’t helped, consider getting professional health. A licensed psychotherapist can help you cope with your anxiety and empower you to make the right choices for you and your family.