Coronavirus Anxiety: Seven Strategies to Help You

May 22, 2020
COVID-19 is completely altering our lifestyle. In a scenario of uncertainty, experiencing anxiety is normal. However, you need to manage it in order to do your best and so that we can all overcome this emergency situation together.

In psychology, a very familiar term is social contagion. These are situations in which emotions spread and eventually trigger extreme stress, worry, and even panic. Coronavirus anxiety is impregnated in all of us and we all need to contain its effect and manage this situation in a correct way.

This feeling of panic not only alters our lifestyles. The waves of its impact affect the economy and, what’s worse, it leads to unhelpful and even irrational behavior. Just as an example, right now, some people have stored enough toilet paper to last them for about three months. Does that make any sense at all? It certainly doesn’t seem to.

We must be clear about this. Anxiety is a part of all of us and, as such, has its purpose and importance. Thanks to it, you can react to danger and it helps you to survive.

However, in contexts of uncertainty and anxiety, like these present times, it’s more important than ever to keep it under control. It must be your ally and not a fuse that intensifies the worry and leads you towards unbalanced and even illogical behavior.

In this current scenario, fear can be a secondary virus, almost as dangerous as COVID-19. Letting yourself succumb to it will intensify your psychological discomfort and let people see the worst of you. Now is not the time. These days, you need to get ahead of yourself and awaken your mental strengths.

A worried woman.

Coronavirus anxiety, what can we do?

We’re all familiar with the classic British message of “Keep Calm and Carry On”. This phrase first appeared in the United Kingdom in 1939 in the form of a pamphlet to raise the population’s morale. Over time, it became an icon. However… did it serve any purpose at that time?

People surely appreciated the idea behind it, but, in reality, being told to stay calm doesn’t help much.

In this case, you need something else to relieve anxiety about the coronavirus. You must train your mental approach. It’s really about reducing the hyperactivity of the cerebral amygdala and your emotions and activating the prefrontal cortex. That region that allows you to act and think in a more focused and reflective way.

1. Avoid infoxication

Infoxication is another word for information overload. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized that the current crisis is generating stress in the population and that, one way to reduce the impact, is to avoid being exposed 24 hours a day to the news and information that are appearing by the second.

Yes, you need to be informed, but don’t get obsessed. Keeping track of numbers, infection rates, and speculation just raises anxiety about the entire situation.

2. In the face of negative thoughts, rationalize

Being afraid is logical and to be expected. However, that fear must be rational. For example, “I’m afraid of getting infected”. What should you do? Take preventive measures. “I’m afraid my father or grandfather will get sick.” What should you do? Take steps to protect them.

Fear must be a mechanism that allows you to take action and useful measures. However, above all, you must control all those negative thoughts that mobilize and increase panic.

Thus, if you’re assaulted by thoughts such as “We’re all going to die” or “There’s no hope”, what you must do is rationalize. In what way? By looking for reliable information. Just look at China’s statistics: the death rate is 2.3%.

3. In the face of uncertainty, routines

Coronavirus anxiety feeds on uncertainty. The reality is this: we’re dealing with something that we’ve never faced before. It’s a new virus and there’s no vaccine at the moment.

Neither do we know how long the confinement and restrictive measures will last. All of this is leading us all into a state of uncertainty that not everyone can manage.

What can you do about this? It’s best to focus on the here and now. The best thing to do in these cases is to establish a routine that you have to stick to. This will help you to focus on the here and now.

A father with his son.

4. Sharing emotions to live better

Anxiety is a common feeling. Experiencing it doesn’t mean you’re a weak person. It’s time to accept all your emotions and share them with others in order to find a balance in your life.

It’s not a question of intensifying fear, but of handling it together, and creating ways in which we can nourish one another with hope, energy, and emotional comfort.

5. Be realistic: risk is neither minimized nor maximized

One way to manage coronavirus anxiety is to be realistic at all times. You mustn’t fall into psychological defense mechanisms in which you minimize the risk. You mustn’t tell yourself that, because you’re young or because you’re in an area with a low rate of infected people, you’re in less danger.

On the other hand, neither should you increase it to such extremes that you start to suffer insomnia and let COVID-19 completely fill your thoughts.

There’s a real risk and you must accept that. You just need to adapt to this reality by being responsible for yourself and for others. If you panic, you won’t be able to help others. If you underestimate the situation, you’ll put yourself and others at risk. Therefore, act with common sense.

A woman in control.
6. I’m not in control of what’s happening, but I can control my reactions and actions

To manage coronavirus anxiety, you have to accept another reality: you have no control over anything that COVID-19 does. However, you can control your reactions and behavior. It’s time to ask yourself how you want to remember yourself when this crisis is over.

Ideally, you’ll want to remember yourself as someone who stayed calm, was responsible, took care of yourself, and helped other people.

7. Everyday goals and connection

No one could have foreseen the current situation, but we’re in the middle of it and there’s no getting away from it. However, it may be weeks until we’re able to reduce the infection curve in the same way China has done.

Until that day, two elements will help us reduce the burden of coronavirus anxiety: setting goals and keeping in touch with the people we love.

Goals should be both short and long term. Every day when we wake up, it’s a good idea to set a goal (read a book, do something new with our partner or with our children, clean the house, write, paint, etc). Long-term goals should remind you that your life’s purposes are still there, guiding you and offering you hope.

On the other hand, it’s essential to maintain contact with friends and family. Now, more than ever, WhatsApp and video calls are our daily sustenance. Let’s make use of them and keep hope.

Your attitude in the current context is everything.