The 24-hour news cycle. Your favorite bar closing down. Worry over your financial situation, or the health of your family, friends and neighbors. It all leads to coronavirus anxiety. And it all takes its toll.
We asked psychiatrist Meredith Stanton, part of FirstHealth’s Behavioral Services Team, for some tips on how to deal with our coronavirus anxiety.
Step One: Recognize What Makes You Nuts
All the below lead to stress, whether you like it or not:
- Novelty: Something you have not experienced before
- Unpredictability: Something you didn’t know would occur
- Threat to the ego: Your competence as a person is called into question
- Sense of control: You feel you have little or no control
“Right now, we are all feeling a little nuts, including me,” she says. “The ways that we all have been handling stress have had to evolve with our current environment and restrictions, but most can be modified to fit our situation, including digital solutions.”
Step Two: Settle Into a New Normal
“I recommend establishing a new routine with both structure and flexibility. Maintain your usual sleep and wake schedule with time dedicated for meals, and free time. Most of our stress is outside of our control, so be sure to focus on tasks or goals that are achievable and inside your control.”
Step Three: Feel Accomplished By Tackling a Project
With more time at home, you can finally take care of the piles of clothes in a closet or the boxes taking up portions of a garage. Creating lists — and checking things off them — can be a great way to keep you focused and keep coronavirus anxiety in check.
Step Four: Limit Your News Intake
“Allow yourself a limited amount of time per day for news and social media. I’d recommend 1 to 2 hours at most, and definitely educate yourself about the coronavirus via reliable and valid sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or NC Department of Health.”
Be calm and confident when discussing the facts with your kids. As parents, the way we internalize and deal with situations serves a model for children, and that is especially true during times of heightened stress.
Step Five: Stock Up On Endorphins.
Here’s some tried-and-true ways to hoard those elusive little stress-busters.
- Breathe: Slow, deep breaths help to relax your muscles and bring extra oxygen to your brain with the message to calm and relax the body. Yoga and Pilates are wonderful exercises that focus on breathing and muscle awareness.
- Don’t be a slug: With the increased adrenaline in your body during stress, exercise allows us to burn off extra jitteriness and increase natural endorphins. Any form of exercise is beneficial, especially activities that increase heart rate.
- Don’t eat like a teenager: Caffeine or high-sugar snacks can give you a boost of energy that wears off quickly. Be sure you are consuming a balanced diet with whole grains, healthy fats and lean meats. Vitamin B can help relieve stress by regulating nerves and brain cells.
- Resurrect that middle-school diary habit: Keeping a journal or writing down the things you are thankful for can help reduce stress and focus the mind of positive aspects of our lives.
- Learn to love standup comedy: The simple act of laughing can increase endorphins, so watch a funny show or play board games with your children.
- Go to bed: You need 7-9 hours of sleep at night to feel rested and ready to face the day.
- Become more interesting: Whether it’s arts and crafts or cooking, creating with our hands or helping others will bring joy and purpose.
- Indulge in alone time: Read, listen to music, do your nails or man-scape. We all need to have 15-30 minutes daily of uninterrupted time for ourselves.
- Meditate. Yes, really.: Head Space, Simple Being and Insight Timer are apps that provide guidance with learning how to be still and focus the mind on positive or neutral thoughts.
- Don’t do dumb things: Cigarettes, too much alcohol, and overeating can feel good in the moment, but cause long term health problems and more stress in the future.
- Go outside: Take time to separate yourself from tech and constant news from the world. Get some sunshine on your face. Tell the crows to get off your lawn.
- Talk to family or friends: They love to hear about your problems, and can help you see them in a different light. Check in regularly through phone, text or video chatting.
Questions Giving you Coronavirus Anxiety? Check our Q&A with FirstHealth infectious disease specialist Dr. Paul Jawanda, or visit FirstHealth’s Coronavirus resource page.