As the coronavirus spreads and cases in the US increase, it’s understandable you could be feeling some anxiety. This is a normal human reaction to threats, but maintaining your high anxiety means your reaction to crisis situations could be less constructive. And those who already suffer from anxiety and related conditions are likely to have a much harder time during the coronavirus pandemic.
“With the significant, wide range of conflicting information available to us every minute of every day as the Coronavirus situation unfolds, it is really common to feel anxious,” explains SCTCC Psychology instructor Katey Leverson. “Ways that a person can manage that worry is to stay informed through reliable and credible sources of information, keep connected with social networks when possible as a way to relieve stress, and engage in activities that promote your personal well-being.”
Here are some suggestions from Jelena Kecmanovic, who teaches psychology at Georgetown University.
Uncertainty is what it is
If you’re a person who has difficulties with uncertain situations, you’re more likely to have anxiety during this virus outbreak. The best way to overcome this is to gradually face uncertainty in other aspects of your life by stepping away from certainty-seeking behaviors.
One way to do this is to not immediately look for an answer the next time you need one. Go for a walk or run outside without looking up the weather. Don’t immediately pull out your phone if you are looking for answer to a question. As you build up your tolerance of uncertain situations, you can scale down the number of times you look for news and updates on the outbreak. Information overload is real!
Take the anxiety puzzle head on
The more you think about reducing your anxiety, the more it seems to rise! Some might try distractions or reassurance from others, or even check news streams to the point of overload, but this only provides momentary relief and can make anxiety worse in the long run.
Try to let your anxious thoughts, feelings, and sensations wash over you and accept anxiety as a part of being human. Notice feelings when they show themselves, describe the experience, and do your best not to judge your thoughts. Face your anxiety in the moment, and it will lead to less over time.
Overcome existential anxiety
Health threats make us anxious because it triggers the fear of death, and when we’re reminded of our own mortality, it’s possible to become consumed with health anxiety and get super focused on signs of illness.
Try to connect to the deeper meanings in your life, like spirituality, relationships, or purpose surrounding a cause. If you’ve been putting something off for a while that would bring you joy in one of these, now’s the time to start – focusing on or discovering the “why” of life can help deal with anxiety.
You are resilient!
Research shows that people tend to overestimate how they’ll be affected by negative events and underestimate how well they’ll cope with and adjust to them. Just keep in mind that you are more resilient than you think.
The coronavirus is serious with a death rate higher than influenza, and everyone should be serious in taking reasonable precautions, like social distancing, washing your hands, and covering your coughs.
That said, the danger of unfamiliar threats tend to be exaggerated compared to familiar threats (coronavirus vs. the flu or car accidents). Excessive media coverage also contributes to a sense of danger, leading to heightened fear and perceived danger.
Limiting your exposure to coronavirus news can help reduce anxiety. Remember that we become more anxious when faced with unfamiliar incidents, making everything seem more dire.
Take time for self-care
Don’t forget tried and true anxiety prevention techniques! Get enough sleep, get some exercise, take time for mindfulness, spend time outside, and complete some relaxation techniques (deep breathing, meditation, etc.)
Making these a priority not only reduces your anxiety, but it will help improve your immune system.
When you need it, go to a professional
If your anxiety is interfering with your everyday actions, like going to work, going to class, being with friends, or taking care of yourself, it may be time to seek professional help. Contact your doctor or mental health professional – your mental health is worth it!
Medications or therapy can help keep your anxiety under control. Remember to treat your mental health just like the health of the rest of your body – you wouldn’t ignore a broken leg!
In addition to these techniques, SCTCC Student Support Manager Melanie Matthews has provided some helpful links:
The Child Mind Institute has published a resource on how to talk to young people about COVID-19.
The Hope Center has outlined resources for supporting college students during this crisis.
The American College Health Association has created a guide to help college health staff and campus administrators address COVID-19 on campus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has information on travel, media resources, and other research on COVID-19.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America Psychologist Jelena Kecmanovic provides some science-based strategies and tips for coping with COVID-19 anxiety.
Melanie is also available to provide help to students who need resources, have questions, or are experiencing fear or emotional reactions to the coronavirus pandemic.
Contact Melanie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 320-308-5096.
Some helpful apps:
- Headspace – an app that uses guided meditation to help lower stress, focus more, and sleep better
- Happify – an app that uses exercises and games designed to reduce stress and overcome negative emotions
- What’s Up – an app that helps people cope with depression, anxiety, stress, and more while also helping people better understand their positive and negative habits through the methodology of Cognitive Behavior Theory (CBT)
- Mindshift – an app geared toward young adults and those experiencing unmanageable anxiety for the first time; it focuses a lot on relaxation skills
- Calm – an app that focuses on 4 areas; meditation, breathing, relaxation, and sleep; the aim is for clarity, peace, and joy
- Pacifica – an app helping people manage their mood, depression and anxiety with a focus on mindfulness and CBT
- SuperBetter – an app that uses games to help people focus on resilience, and the ability to remain strong, optimistic and motivated
To learn more about SCTCC’s response to the coronavirus and how we are making campus safe, check out this page.