As we hear the latest news updates about the coronavirus and the impact it is having on the world, coronavirus anxiety, fear and panic is on the rise.
From bulk buying antibacterial products and toilet paper to schools shutting down, financial markets crashing and worry about quarantines and travel disruptions, it’s no wonder coronavirus anxiety is reaching fever pitch.
We are constantly being reminded about how to protect ourselves and avoid being infected.
Fears about our health can be particularly anxiety-inducing, after all our bodies and our health are so very important to us.
It’s completely rational to have a bit of coronavirus anxiety, because at this stage we are uncertain of what’s going to happen next and whether we will be affected. If this fear of the unknown is affecting your daily life or your sleep, there are some steps you can take to manage it.
It’s completely rational to be anxious, because at this stage we are uncertain of what’s going to happen next and whether we will be affected
What are some things we can do to help?
Tried and tested methods of managing stress and anxiety include: exercising, getting enough sleep, eating well and limiting alcohol, and meditating. Of course it’s ideal to do these things as preventive measures anyway, but so few of us do. It’s worth noting if any of these have fallen by the wayside recently and perhaps implementing one or two good habits.
Check in the right places
With a developing news story like the coronavirus outbreak, where you get your information from and how much information you are consuming is also key.
Watching the news 24/7 is likely to make you more stressed and give you more coronavirus anxiety so don’t overdo it by chase down every breaking news bulletin.
And some strategies, such as googling symptoms, rarely calm you or make you feel better.
If you must check, look at reputable sources such as the WHO’s website. This can help coronavirus anxiety by making you feel informed without being exposed to the sensationalism of the news media.
These sources also give you practical tips on what you can do to prevent infection. Taking specific action can further help you feel less powerless.
Look at the context
Also, remember that if you do happen to come down with something, it’s actually far more likely to be a common cold or the flu rather than the coronavirus.
Each year around 13,500 Australians are hospitalised because of the flu and it causes over 3,000 deaths in those over 50 years old. In comparison, we have so far had 80 confirmed cases and 3 deaths from coronavirus, so it’s worth looking at the context. The probability of actually contracting the coronavirus is relatively low.
Recognising what you can and can’t control
Remember that there are many things in life we can’t control; we can’t control if we will be exposed to this virus, or what other people say, think or do. The only thing we actually have control over are our own thoughts and reactions.
So feel what you are feeling, give yourself permission to feel it and acknowledge the feeling. Turn towards it, name it and accept it without judging yourself. It’s ok to be nervous, apprehensive or whatever you are feeling. Sometimes accepting what we are feeling helps us to move forward.
Try taking a few slow deep breaths. When we feel overwhelmed, our breathing becomes shallow, which can make us feel even more stressed. When we take slow, deep breaths, we stimulate the vagus nerve, the main nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system. This switches off the stress response, slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure, making you feel calmer in both your mind and body.
Slowly breathe in through your nose, into your belly and feel it expand. Do this to a count of 4 and slowly breathe out through your mouth to a count of 6. Do this for 5-6 breath cycles to feel the tension leave your body. You can do this whenever you notice you are feeling stressed or uptight.
There are many things in life we can’t control; we can’t control if we will be exposed to this virus, or what other people say, think or do. The only thing we actually have control over are our own thoughts and reactions.
Turn to loved ones
Sometimes, when we feel stressed out or anxious, we turn away from the people we care about and who care about us. But this is precisely when we need their help. It can be hard to do. I know I often find it hard because I don’t want to be a burden on anyone but just think – if a friend or family member was feeling the way you are feeling, would you want them to come to you?
I do understand that feeling of being out of control, powerless or hopeless. It can be scary to think that there is nothing you can do. But there is always something and that something could just be being kind and gentle with yourself. Remember that this too shall pass.