Managing COVID-19 – Related Anxiety

Managing COVID-19 – Related Anxiety

By Sara Caroppo 

Counselling Psychologist and Family Therapist 

The recent increase of COVID-19 cases in Europe and in the rest of the world has seen a great increase of strong emotions, such as overwhelming fear and worry, in our community. 

Despite the fact that the infection has not reached everyone, the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic have affected numerous aspects of our daily life; and these disruptions have been experienced by everyone..

This world crisis is impacting each and everyone on a multitude of different levels, from professional to personal, from social to interpersonal, and is affecting almost every area of our lives.

The sudden change in our routines and habits, the social distancing, the continuous updates transmitted on the news, our concerns about loved ones’ health can become a lethal mix to which no one is immune: Anxiety.

Anxiety is the natural response of our survival instinct to a stressful and dreadful situation. Physiologically, the adrenaline level arises, creating a chemical imbalance that is characterised by an increased heart rate, a sudden energy boost, and heightened awareness.  At moderate levels, Anxiety can provide the right motivation to get things done, like completing an assignment that’s due. 

Although a certain level of anxiety is both common and normal, an elevated and constant state of worry affects the normal functioning of a person, reflecting in a general inability to focus and rest, irritability, tiredness and restlessness, and with a feeling of worry.

In times like this, staying calm may become a challenge, and therefore, it is critical to start establishing some healthy habits to help us cope with anxiety symptoms and to protect our mental health and wellbeing.

Here’s a short guide on how to manage your feelings and stay in control:

Limit News Access

The urge to keep informed about the situation is understandable, but for many people being overly concerned about the news can make a fertile ground for anxiety symptoms to be triggered.

news outlets may report ‘positive’ stories occasionally, however the vast majority of them predominantly reports depressing or shocking stories. 

Being constantly exposed to this type of content affects the limbic system and releases an important quantity of cortisol into the immune system which inevitably creates a state of chronic stress. 

Although you may think you can compensate with the strength of your own inner contemplation, the news consumption increases the level of fear and engenders the perception of risk.

Establish New Routines

The void left by the activities and responsibilities that normally fill a typical working day can leave you with a lot of unstructured time during your day. Although this could be a good opportunity to cultivate your interests outside work it can be hard to make good use of the time that at your disposal or simply to get started.  

Research shows that not having a routine can be even more mentally and physically draining than the routine itself. This leads to increasing lack of motivation and concentration that ultimately can overwhelm your spirit and your body completely.

It is important that in times like this, you try to normalise your days as much as possible, trying to stick to a schedule resembling your habitual working day as much as possible. 

Start by drafting a daily timetable and post it where you can see it. This may contain both hobbies and activities that are good for your health, such as working out, taking an online course or reading a book. Set the clock for the same time, get dressed and stick to your schedule. It will be challenging at first but once you

Stay Connected

There are many reasons why the confinement that most governments are currently enforcing in their countries in order to contain the COVID-19, can impact the wellbeing and mental health of the individuals.

Among these, the lack of social contact and the sudden restriction of freedom would be the major triggers for anxiety to be exacerbated. Feeling socially connected, especially in a situation of isolation like the one that most countries are currently experiencing, is more pivotal than ever. 

Establish human connection every day will increase your wellbeing and will ward off the dangerous effects of loneliness and marginalisation. Whether self-imposed or not, the social distancing does not mean emotional distancing and feeling lonely does not mean you are alone. 

There are many ways to virtually socialise with others. You may develop a virtual gatherings routine, through video call apps, so that you can interact with loved ones as you would in person.

Alternatively, or in addition to this, there are many support services available on the internet or telephonically that you can reach out to such as 7 cups, supportsgroup.com, lifeline, and turn2me.

Look After Yourself

It is important to preserve some sense of normalcy during self-isolation in order to maintain good mental and physical health and to make the social distancing more pleasant.

Self-care skills are those everyday tasks we perform to look after our overall wellbeing so that we can participate positively in life activities. Self-care can take different forms and everyone’s approach to it is different. 

Developing your personalised self-care plan will help you cope with the enforced confinement, the loss of control and the isolation feelings that may arise following a prolonged social distancing time. 

In addition to making sure that the basic self-care skills, like taking a shower in the morning, getting dressed, cleaning the house, performing beauty rituals are maintained even in the absence of a daily work routine, you can include new tasks to improve the quality of your home time. Start by identifying some activities that can be intellectually engaging and try to practice them regularly.  Some examples may be to keep a reflective diary, meditate or make time for relaxation, engage in moderate-intensity physical activity. In terms of keeping your spirit up, you can also write three good things that you did each day.

As each person is different, so are the coping strategies to rely on. Regardless, it is important to do the best you can to improve your wellbeing and to modify the unhelpful behaviour and thinking patterns that can lead you to develop mental health problems. 

Times like this, offer the perfect opportunity to focus on yourself and establish healthier routines to create your stronger and happier self