In just a few weeks life has changed for many people due to efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The constant updates, warnings and changes to routines is more than enough to cause anyone to feel anxious.
Anxiety can be even more likely among people over age 60 and among those who have chronic conditions that put them at high risk for developing severe and dangerous complications as a result of COVID-19.
In spite of the uncertainty and concerns for the health of loved ones, it is possible to alleviate some of the stress and anxiety related to the pandemic. Here are a few things you can do to help quell your anxiety or share with a loved one who is struggling with anxious feelings.
Focus on facts, not rumors
While it is stressful to hear all of the updates about COVID-19 and how it may affect you and your family, it is important to understand the facts. Focus on understanding key facts by getting updates from reputable health sources like your local health department, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control or the World Health Organization. Once you understand the facts about how to prevent the spread of the virus, you can take action.
Avoid reading information that isn’t verified or by a true expert in health care. If you are in doubt, compare it to information from the reputable sources above to see if it’s rumor or fact. Don’t allow rumors to cause you to focus on things that aren’t helpful and may even be harmful.
Give yourself a break from the news
We all need to be informed, but we don’t have to consume every new update 24 hours per day. If the news about the virus, event cancellations and more are causing you stress, take a break. Turn off news notifications on your phone, take a break from reading online posts and turn away from television or radio news for a few hours or more each day.
Alternatives to binging on news updates include watching a favorite movie or television show that makes you laugh or takes your mind off the pandemic. Read a book that is not related to current events. Bake or cook something comforting or make time to engage in another hobby that you can do at home.
Honor your schedule and your health
Even as things change around you, do your best to maintain your normal sleeping schedule and a healthy diet. Try to get plenty of sleep, incorporate movement into your day and eat regular meals. Take your medications as normal and stay hydrated.
You are likely to feel even more anxious if you change your routine and lack sleep.
Ask for help when you need it
If the feelings of anxiety are overwhelming and you feel isolated, ask for help. Call a family member or friend to explain how you’re feeling. Just talking to someone else by phone, may help you feel more balanced. And they may be able to reassure you and make suggestions that you haven’t thought of due to stress.
In addition, find out what your community is doing to keep people connected remotely.
Many churches, synagogues and religious organizations are offering their services online or via telephone dial in. Just knowing that others are worshipping at the same time and keeping your routine as close to normal as possible may help. And your house of worship likely has members or staff who would be happy to talk with you about resources and options.
Staying connected to others, even by phone, text and email, is important for your emotional health.