1. Know that feeling anxious about coronavirus is OK and normal.

Anxiety is a natural response to the unknown, so it’s normal to feel unsettled since much about the virus is unknown even to experts.

Anxiety is mother nature’s way of trying to protect us by pushing us to resolve uncertainty and figure out a solution.

Top that off with job losses, financial worries, family issues, and ongoing mental health conditions, and you’ve got a recipe for very valid, and very serious stress.

But while eliminating coronavirus-related stress is a tall order, it can, and should, be managed so you can maintain your mental health.

2. Limit your media exposure, especially if you struggled with anxiety before the pandemic.

Panic arises when people overestimate a threat and underestimate their coping abilities. Watching coverage that repeatedly emphasises both the rapid spread of coronavirus and lack of effective treatment is a fuel for the anxiety fire.

While it is fine to have a general idea of what is happening, especially if you live near an area with high concentration of cases, it’s important to limit media exposure, particularly from undocumented or potentially unreliable sources to only once or twice a day.

3. Do what you can to protect yourself and your family, including excellent hygiene and social distancing practices.

Action is the antidote to anxiety, and there’s actually a lot individuals can do to protect themselves and their families.

Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, sanitise high-touch surfaces, avoid sick people, make sure you have any relevant medical supplies, and stay home as much as possible.

4. Do your part in protecting your community, whether by helping more vulnerable neighbours with shopping or staying home.

You can also take action to help your community, whether that means helping an elderly neighbour get their shopping or staying in, even when you feel healthy and are able to go out.

5. Try to focus on what you are grateful for.

Rather than marinating in worries that you’ll get the coronavirus, focus on what you value and what you are grateful for.

Make a daily “gratitude list” in order to build psychological resiliency.

Doing so also helps us to stop narrowly focusing on potential threats or negative elements in our environment, which our brain is wired to do. Widening our perspective and recognising that while things are challenging and uncertain, there are also good things in our daily lives that can make a big difference.

6. Seek virtual help from mental-health professionals.

Therapists around the country are shifting their practices online.

Some de-stressing apps can help. Headspace and Calm are good examples.

7. Just breathe.

You don’t even need to download an app to experience the anxiety-reducing magic of simply breathing.

We recommend the 4-7-8 method, which can reinstall a sense of calm when you feel out of control.

The method involves breathing in for four seconds, holding for seven, and exhaling for eight.

But more than the particular count, what matters is that the exhale is longer than the inhale. Lengthening the exhale emphasises the release. You’re releasing whatever is going on and relieving stress.

8. Attempt to maintain a routine.

This strategy is important, as daily routines like commuting and socialising come to a halt.

Following the same sleeping and eating schedule as pre-COVID-19.

9. Eat healthy, don’t smoke, and exercise when possible.

Good nutrition and sufficient movement are good for both body and mind.

We recommended eating a healthy and nutritious diet, which helps your immune system to function properly, limiting alcohol and sugary drink consumption, and not smoking.

Smoking can increase your risk of developing serious disease if you become infected with COVID-19.

We encourage people’s compliance with local and national guidelines, to go out for a walk, run, or bike ride while keeping a distance from others, or otherwise getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day for adults and an hour for children.

If you can’t leave the house, find an exercise video online. Dance to music. Do some yoga or walk up and down the stairs. For people working, get up for a short break every 30 minutes.

10. Use the time to reach out to loved ones and reconnect with old friends.

Social isolation can fuel depression and, over the long term, is even linked to a shorter life span.

So just because you may be physically distant from other people, you can, and should, stay socially connected to them.

If you check in with people once a month, check in four times a month.

Fortunately, doing so is easier today than ever, for example Zoom, Skype, What’sApp

We recommend being proactive about reaching out to others and asking how they’re doing. This will boost your mental wellbeing as well as theirs, since they’ll at least experience the perception of support, which research shows can reduce stress.

The silver lining to something like a directive to reduce contact with the outside world is the ability to slow down and connect with the people closest to us.

When you’re having people still express love and support in a variety of ways, it can make those periods of relative confinement more bearable.

Despite implementing these measures, people are still struggling with depression and anxiety. You can make an appointment with a psychiatrist or psychologist or contact us here.

Nick Kypriotis
MSc Psychology & Counselling, FDAP (accred), NCAC

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