Are you spending hours each day reading the latest news on COVID-19? Worried every time you cough that you may have the virus? Can’t sleep because you’re so concerned about the effect the downturn in the economy may have on your business or investments?
It’s normal to feel stressed or worried from time to time, especially in times of huge uncertainty and upheaval. The current Coronavirus pandemic may be contributing to an ongoing feeling of anxiety in some people.
Stress and anxious feelings are a common response to a situation where we feel under pressure, but those feelings usually pass once the stressful situation has passed, or the ‘stressor’ is removed.
The current situation in the world is unprecedented, and many people are understandably concerned. It may be some time before the virus and your associated stress disappears.
But if your anxious feelings and Coronavirus stress are making it difficult for you to cope with daily life, this may be the sign of an anxiety condition.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is the most common mental health condition experienced by Australians, with one in four people affected at some stage in their life. Over 2 million Australians experience anxiety each year.
There are different types of anxiety disorder, including:
- Generalised anxiety disorder – feeling anxious most days and worrying about many different things
- Social anxiety – fear and worries about everyday situations involving other people, such as having a conversation or public speaking
- Phobias – intense fear of particular things or situations, such as spiders or flying on a plane
- Panic disorder – suffering from recurrent panic attacks
- Obsessive compulsive disorder or (OCD) – feeling compelled to carry out behaviours or rituals, such as handwashing, to relieve anxiety
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – anxiety due to experiencing or witnessing a specific event, such as an accident
The current Coronavirus pandemic may be making many people feel overly anxious or stressed. Fear and anxiety about a disease, especially one we don’t fully understand, can cause strong emotions. This is normal, and many people will be able to cope relatively well with the added stress.
However, for those people who are suffering from an anxiety disorder, this added stressor can become overwhelming and can cause high levels of emotional distress.
If you feel like you’re worrying excessively about the Coronavirus, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a psychological disorder.
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. How you respond to the current outbreak may depend on your background, personality, and the people around you.
However, if your Coronavirus worries are interfering with your daily life and activities (for example, if you’re scared to shop for groceries for fear of catching the virus) or you feel unable to manage your stress and anxiety appropriately, getting support can help you to deal with your feelings and improve your ongoing wellbeing.
Tips for Managing Anxiety and Stress
If you are feeling anxious or stressed, there are some strategies you can use to help manage anxiety and stress.
Limit your Exposure to Stressors
While it is important to be informed, hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
Make sure to take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Ideally, limit these activities to a maximum set time each day and avoid them entirely at bedtime before you go to sleep.
Tools such as meditation and mindfulness can help to ease feelings of anxiety by calming your mind. Meditation doesn’t have to take long or be difficult – simply sitting with your eyes closed for five minutes and focusing your mind will be beneficial. There are several meditation apps and free videos on YouTube to guide you.
Breathing techniques can also be very helpful, particularly if you are prone to panic attacks. Deep breathing will help to relieve the symptoms of anxiety, particularly when combined with gentle exercise such as yoga.
Limit Alcohol, Cigarettes, and Other Drugs
Many people turn to these crutches to help them cope with feelings of stress. But when stress is ongoing, this habit can easily turn into addiction. Some drugs, such as alcohol, also act as a depressant and can amplify negative feelings.
Talk About Your Feelings with Family and Friends
Remember, you’re not the only person who has these worries. Talking things over with someone you trust can help you relieve tension and get some perspective on the situation.
Focus on What You Can Control
Worrying about things you can’t control will make you feel helpless. Instead, focus on what you can control, such as eating healthy food and getting plenty of sleep to support your immune system.
Sometimes, it can also help to focus your thoughts on doing something positive and productive, such as shopping for an elderly neighbour.
Get Extra Support
A mental health professional can help you change your ‘self-talk’ or inner thought patterns to reduce feelings of anxiety.
If you’re struggling with stress and anxious feelings due to the Coronavirus pandemic, a professional counsellor can provide support.
At Psychological Health Care, we offer in-person counselling sessions at our clinic in Perth or Skype, Zoom or FaceTime sessions for those who are self-isolating or prefer to access our services over the internet. Get in touch to make an appointment.