COVID-19 (coronavirus) has officially been declared a pandemic. Across the globe, people are being quarantined, cruise ships are being denied entrance to ports, and social gatherings have been curtailed. This has resulted in a stock market free fall and panic buying as people hoard food and products in case of their own quarantining.
As the count of infected people rises, the unrelenting news coverage can make anyone feel helpless. It brings up worry, stress, and fear. This is even truer for those who already suffer from anxiety and its related syndromes, such as generalized anxiety disorder.
Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
In the face of a pandemic, the fear and anxiety about possible exposure to the illness can take on a life of its own.
If you are already someone who is anxious, you might find that you are having headaches or stomach problems. You may begin to have trouble sleeping or eating, or can even have a panic attack. And, if you have generalized anxiety disorder, your worries and fears can rapidly become overwhelming.
Your normal anxiety levels might ramp up to the point that you:
- Worry about the virus on an hourly or daily basis and often find yourself consumed by fears during your day.
- Find that your fears are significantly disrupting your work, relationships, or daily activities.
- Automatically envision the worst-case scenario for the pandemic.
Anxiety can also manifest as psychological symptoms, such as:
- Insistent worrying or fixating about your fears
- Being easily startled and feeling like you are constantly “on edge” or keyed up
- Having trouble concentrating
- Being irritable and continually on the edge of an argument with someone
- Worrying that you are losing control
In addition to these psychological symptoms, there are physical symptoms of anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder. These can include:
- A rapid heartbeat and/or shortness of breath
- Insomnia and problems sleeping, which leaves you fatigued
- Headaches or an increase in migraines
- Nausea, sweating, muscle tension
Self Care For COVID-19-Related Anxiety
While it’s understandable to worry about catching COVID-19, you may be able to calm your fears and lower your anxiety levels by doing the following:
- First – turn off the TV and stop reading or watching online news reports and social media. Make the conscious decision to limit your exposure to distressing news. Fear is addictive, so know that if you are constantly watching world events, you’ll keep your mind focused on the negative.
- It is good to keep in mind that news organizations prosper when people are watching and paying attention to what they are saying. If you are keeping an eye on the news right now, you’ll notice that you can hardly find any news about anything except the spread of the virus. Why is that? Because the media is making tons of money on this outbreak, so that’s what they are focusing on. Remember that we live in a safer world than ever before. Experts are working to solve this new virus and the majority of people who contract it will recover.
- Next, try to detach – again, obsessing about germs and catching the coronavirus will not solve the problem, but it will make you more anxious and upset. Remember that your distress is only yours – worrying that you will catch COVID-19 will not change anything or protect you from getting ill. Instead, try to focus on something else – a hobby, exercise, your loved ones – so you aren’t constantly preoccupied with the news.
- Take care of yourself by eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly to help relieve stress, and trying to get enough sleep. In addition, meditation can help to calm your mind, as can something as simple as deep, rhythmic breathing.
- As much as possible, try to continue doing the things you enjoy so that you feel more in control of the world around you. While we are working from home and avoiding public places, we can catch up on the movies we have missed (or watch favorites again), read the books on our list, clean out clutter, or start an online class in something we are interested in (classes can be found on websites such as Udemy). All these things will help to distract from the virus.
It’s also good to remember that fear sucks the pleasure out of everything. Living in fear keeps you from enjoying your life – and it won’t change what happens in the world.
However, you are the only one who can choose whether to focus on the negative or whether you will look for ways to turn this into a “positive”. Be kind to yourself and don’t permit yourself to get wrapped up in negative news stories and worries about COIVD-19.
If, however, you use these ideas and are still stressed and fearful about the coronavirus, it might be time to speak with a professional to discuss more specific steps. Many offices, including ours, now have virtual options available, so that you can speak to someone without having to leave your home.
Virtual Options For Anxiety Treatment
For more information on our virtual (or in-office) help for your anxiety about COVID-19 or for a generalized anxiety disorder, please contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.