Here’s what you can do to keep calm as the country grapples to deal with COVID-19. These are difficult times, when just listening to the news can be a stressful experience.
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In our always-on world, a constant stream of notifications, pings and news alerts already had us feeling stressed out. But with news of the COVID-19 pandemic now rolling out on a minute-by-minute basis, this has only intensified.
Non-stop notifications about the increasing number of cases, seemingly endless event cancellations and school/workplace closures, and incessant tweets and articles about self-isolation can be truly overwhelming. And it may be even more difficult to handle if you already struggle with anxiety anyway.
ALSO SEE: 13 Ways To De-stress & Regain Calm
COVID-19 anxiety: how to tackle it
While the government has a responsibility to keep us informed, not all of us can handle a constant barrage of information on TV, radio, WhatsApp and social media. We might struggle to remain calm.
So what are the best things to do to help your own mental health, if news of COVID-19 is sparking a spiral in your anxiety?
Don’t be afraid to curate your news and social media feeds
Just because the world seems to be Tweeting, Facebooking, or writing about COVID-19, doesn’t mean you need to do the same.
If you find reading the latest updates on the situation are negatively impacting your mental health, switch over from news, turn off your phone, and put on Friends instead. It really is okay. And you don’t need permission from anyone else to do what is best for your mental health.
If you’re not 100% sure you can cut yourself off from social media altogether, there are ways around it. On Twitter, you can mute words that you find cause a spike in your anxiety, by going to Settings, then Content Preferences, and adding in the words you’d like to mute.
Limit your news intake to just one or two times a day
While it’s important to know how to prepare yourself for self-isolation, and how to stay hygienic, there’s no practical need for you to get an hourly update on the latest death toll, for example, if it’s sending your anxiety levels through the roof.
The WHO recommends allocating news checking to just once or twice a day.
Remember that worry and panic does nothing to help the situation – it only harms you
While anxiety is there to protect us, worrying over the odds isn’t helpful. Psychiatrist Dr Natasha Bijlani says, “Anxiety can be a helpful and protective emotion, and is a response to threat or danger, but it can become counterproductive and damaging if it is excessive or prolonged.”
It’s been proven that anxiety and stress can cause headaches, disturbed sleep, and can even lower your immune system, so doing what you can to relax and reduce your anxiety is one of the best things you can actually do for your health.
ALSO SEE: Boost Your Immune System With Good Sleep
Practice relaxation and meditation techniques
Similarly, Dr Natasha suggests that general techniques for dealing with anxiety during times of national panic could prove beneficial.
She said, “Learn and practice active relaxation techniques such as deep breathing if you experience physical tension. Distract yourself with pleasurable activities such as reading, art, music etc.
“Eat well, hydrate yourself and get adequate sleep and exercise.”
Try and reason with the reality of the situation
Don’t let alarmist headlines suck you in. Although COVID-19 is a global health crisis, and should of course be taken seriously, it might be helpful to remind yourself of the realities.
Dr Natasha reminds us, “Remember that we are all in this situation together. Try not to ‘catastrophise’ and imagine the worst-case scenario for yourself. While news broadcasts seem to be regularly reporting the numbers affected and actual fatalities, vastly more people survive the infection than not. So even if you are infected, you are more likely to survive the infection than not.”
She suggested that it could also help to refocus on those who may really be struggling.
“Consider offering appropriate help and support to elderly or unwell neighbours or friends,” she suggested.
“Shifting perspective from concern for yourself to aiding others can act as an effective way of diluting your own anxiety and is very good for your own mental health.”
While self-isolation measures may prevent you from visiting, perhaps order from an online food shop for an older relative or neighbour, or offer to chat with them regularly on the phone to make self-isolation less lonely for them.
Written by Amy Hunt