By Greta Hirsch, PhD, Clinical Director of The Ross Center
Uncertainty ramps up our anxiety. Anxiety can really paralyze someone, distort their thinking, and keep them from functioning normally; they’re so worried that they can’t sleep or eat, they can only ruminate. Although we are more likely to catch the flu right now than the coronavirus, that knowledge does not trigger anxiety in most of us because it is more familiar and not a new phenomenon.
The media’s use of expressions like “state of emergency” and “pandemic” are likely to fuel even more anxiety. Strategies to manage your stress during times of uncertainty become important so that the anxiety does not turn into dread or panic.
We must remember that most cases of the virus are mild, and most people recover without needing hospitalization. Faced with an unfamiliar disease most people are hungry for news and information. However, constantly being bombarded with information can further fuel anxiety. Important tools for stress management focus on things you can control such as:
- Follow recommendations by the CDC such as washing your hands, not touching your face and self-quarantine if you are symptomatic.
- Get rest, exercise and eat healthy meals. There is research that all these behaviors boost our immune system.
- Limit the amount of news you’re watching and get your information from reliable sources like the CDC, World Health Organization and your local health department.
- Avoid inaccurate information from Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
- Meditate, listen to music and engage in other activities that are enjoyable. Laugh and connect with people you enjoy spending time with.
- Challenge catastrophic thoughts, remembering most cases are mild.
- Seek the help of a psychologist if your anxiety is difficult to manage on your own.
One positive outcome globally will be people practicing much better hygiene by washing their hands, covering their mouths if they sneeze, and staying home if they are ill. Hopefully these behaviors will last much longer than this one outbreak.
For more tips on managing anxiety related to Coronavirus, visit the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website.