How to Cope With Anxiety During a Pandemic
Many of us weren’t prepared for how long COVID-19 would be affecting our country. As we see the cases rise, a lot of our anxiety is rising as well.
Your “what ifs” can start to take over. Thoughts about what will happen with your kids during this upcoming school year, what’s going to happen if your spouse isn’t able to go back to work, or what you’ll do if you have to work from home for the rest of the year.
The list of things unknown goes on and on. And if we know one thing about humanity, it’s that the fear of the unknown can be the cause for a lot of anxiety and stress during these times. So much so that it can debilitating at times.
A recent poll actually shows about half of Americans are anxious about catching COVID-19 and another 40% are scared about becoming seriously ill. This thought alone can make a simple run to the grocery store feel like an insurmountable feat.
So what can be done to decrease your anxiety levels during these times even if we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet?
I’m going to give you a few tips to help manage your anxiety during this pandemic. My hope is that you’ll be able to apply these to your life and make this year a bit more enjoyable and manageable.
Coping Strategies for Anxiety and Stress During COVID-19:
1. Focus on What You Can Control
Even though there are a lot of uncertainties right now, being aware of the things that you do have control over and acting on those things can put your mind at ease.
You may not be able to go back to the office, but you can set up a desk in a quiet room in your home to replicate an office (rather than plopping down on the couch).
You may not be able to walk into a store without a face mask, but you can purchase one that you like or even design your own.
You may not be able to control if you catch COVID-19 or not. But, you can control how often you wash your hands, if you carry hand sanitizer, and if you wear a mask.
Being able to own the situation that you’re in, and embrace it in your own way can help set your mind at ease. While you focus on the things you can control, try identifying the worries that you have no control over and let them go.
Easier said than done right? Hop to the next point to help with this.
2. Identify Anxious Thoughts
“What if I catch the virus?”
“What will happen if the kids can’t go back to school?”
“What if my big trip gets canceled this year?”
It’s completely normal to be stressed or slightly anxious about all of the things going on right now. But to help you cope, it’s important that you start identifying the anxious thoughts that you’re dealing with.
One technique is to identify them and then label them as Control or No Control.
When thoughts are running through your mind a mile per minute it’s easy to get lost in the commotion of them all, which usually ends up making things worse. Next time this happens, I encourage you to take out a journal and write down all of the thoughts you’re dealing with.
Once you have your thoughts written down, take another page and put each thought into one of two columns. One will be for the things you have control over and one will be for the things that you don’t.
And then, focus on the thoughts that you can do something about.
By labeling each thought as control or no control you’ll be able to take action on the things that you have control over and gradually let go of the ones that are only causing your anxiety to rise.
3. Stay Informed, but Don’t Obsess
Of course, it’s important to stay up on the times and be informed (I’m not a huge advocate of the hermit lifestyle). However, there are limits to these things.
I think we all know by now that the news can… take things out of proportion. But that doesn’t mean that you have to avoid it altogether.
If you’re wanting to stay informed I suggest you find news sources that are credible and unbiased. This can be pretty difficult these days, but here’s an article that lists out a few options for you.
Podcasts can be great as well, Erica Mandy at The NewsWorthy is one that helps keep you informed in only 10 minutes a day without taking any specific viewpoints on the topics.
By finding unbiased news sources and limiting your time watching them, you’ll help prevent the pandemic from becoming the center of your focus.
4. Pay Attention to What You Can Do, Not What You Can’t.
This can go along with focusing on what you can control vs. what you can’t. However, what I’m referring to here are daily activities. With the second wave of recent shutdowns here in Texas, you may be lost in all of the things you’re unable to do… again.
But rather than focusing on not being able to go get drinks with friends, or workout without a mask, focus on the things that you’re able to do instead.
Things like having a friend over for drinks and games at your place (with the added perk of saving money). Or doing a home workout with the family so you don’t have to wear a mask at the gym.
Get creative with extracurricular activities! Rollerblading, making homemade ice cream, or picking up a hobby like tennis can help keep you active and stop your mind from wondering.
Things may not be ideal, but as I mentioned before, being able to embrace the situation that we’re in while making the most of it can help with your anxiety levels.
5. Stay Connected
Last but not least, prioritize staying connected with friends.
When feelings of anxiety arise it’s easy to want to isolate and withdraw from others. While taking time for yourself is important, it’s also vital that you stay connected with friends and family. Especially during a time when isolation is seeping in on everyone.
Setting up Netflix watch parties or playing games over a video chat can help foster strong relationships and increase positive feelings. Things like going on a walk or being outdoors can help you keep your distance while still benefiting from the positive feelings of being with someone.
The effort it takes to plan something like this (especially after getting so used to doing nothing around the house) is worth the reward. I promise.
If you’re wanting someone to talk to about your anxiety I encourage you to seek out a therapist in your area. Their support alone can help make these uncertain times easier.
And if you’re wanting more free resources, please continue to check out our website and our social media as we aim to help.