How to cope with anxiety about coronavirus (COVID-19)


by David Blackburn

Mar 15, 2020

If you’re feeling heightened levels of anxiety or fear because of the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), you’re not alone. It’s only natural to be stressed during times of uncertainty. But with these coping mechanisms, you can take care of yourself and your loved ones and look forward with confidence.

Recognize that anxiety during a crisis is normal.

Anxiety often manifests as feelings of worry, fear and nervousness. You may experience panic episodes or feel a sense of apprehension or impending doom when thinking about the future. These feelings can be magnified during times of stress.

It’s important to note that everyone reacts differently to stressful situations.

Anxiety may be a mental health condition, but it also has effects on your physical health. Some physiological symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Racing heart
  • Tightness in your chest
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Trembling
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Racing thoughts, especially at night

It’s important to note that everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. If you’re feeling anxious and experiencing some of these symptoms, know that these are all normal mental and physical responses to COVID-19 as a perceived threat.

Related: Is stress keeping you up at night?

Take it one day at a time.

One of the primary reasons people experience increased levels of anxiety and fear is because of uncertainty. People who experience anxiety often worry about the future and ask “what if” questions. Similarly, they lament about the past by making “if only” statements. Rarely do they focus on the immediate present, living one day at a time.

Keep your mind focused on what you can do today to help yourself and those around you.

Confront your fears.

The best way to cope with fear is to confront the fear itself. For example, if you are afraid of riding on an elevator, the treatment would be to gently introduce you to riding on an elevator to overcome the fear.

In terms of facing a fear of disease like COVID-19, it is helpful to be armed with solid, accurate information so you can respond accordingly — not out of fear.

Rely on trustworthy sources.

There is a lot of information circulating on the internet about COVID-19 — and not all of it is true or helpful. What is helpful is receiving solid, factual information about what is happening and digesting it in small quantities.

When it comes to your health, rely on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a trusted source. Stay up to date on the current recommendations for ways to protect yourself and your household from COVID-19.

Find healthy ways to relieve stress.

If you’re feeling stressed, it’s more important than ever to take good care of your body. Prioritize eating healthy, exercising regularly and partaking in activities that bring you joy. Each of these factors can significantly boost your mood and your immune system to keep you feeling your best.

Related: 4 ways to fight stress and anxiety with food

Talk to your loved ones.

During uncertain times, many people experience anxiety not just for themselves but also for their loved ones. It can help put your mind at ease to talk with your family and friends about what you’ll do if someone gets sick. By making contingency plans, you’ll know that everyone is prepared just in case.

We experience anxiety in response to a threat, whether it be real or perceived. It’s only natural. So, if you’re feeling anxious or stressed, know that you are not alone. However, if you do begin to experience paralyzing anxiety that keeps you from taking care of your daily responsibilities, you may want to consider talking to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Find out what to do if you think you have COVID-19.

About the Author

David Blackburn, PhD, specializes in Adult Mental Health, Cognitive Behavior Psychotherapy, and Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Baylor Scott & White Mental Health Clinic – Temple. The clinic provides an array of care for your family from individual therapy to couples, family or group therapy. Get to know Dr. Blackburn today.

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