Recently, we’ve all been hearing a lot of news about Coronavirus and COVID-19. Efforts to fight the pandemic are starting to affect our daily lives. There’s a good chance that your school is temporarily closing, or that your spring break travel plans have changed. You may be worried about getting sick, or concerned for family members with specific health considerations. The news is developing rapidly — every time you turn around, you’re likely to find a new headline, story, or soundbite.
And while it is good to be informed and to stay safe, this constant coverage can trigger serious anxiety. If you already struggle with anxiety, you may find yourself feeling especially overwhelmed, helpless, or fearful.
It’s important to remember that we’re all in this together. A certain amount of anxiety is normal when we are faced with an unfamiliar situation — fear of the unknown is something that most people grapple with. But as we take extra steps to protect our physical health, we must also take steps to protect our mental and emotional health.
We hope these seven tips for managing anxiety and uncertainty help you stay strong as we navigate these current events. Together, we will get through this.
Note: These tips are meant for general information. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek immediate care, reach out to a 24-hour lifeline, or call 911.
Honor your feelings — they are a natural part of being human. We each experience a full range of emotions. Some are more pleasant than others, but all are valid. When we try to suppress our difficult feelings, they only get stronger. As the psychoanalyst Carl Jung famously said, “What you resist, persists.”
This is not to say that you should dwell on negative emotions. Just give yourself some grace. You are not bad, or weak, or wrong because you are afraid — you are human. Remind yourself that feelings, however unpleasant, are temporary. You haven’t always felt this way, and you will not always feel this way.
It may be helpful to write your feelings down in a journal or on a piece of paper. The act of writing out a thought sends a message to our brains that it’s being addressed. You don’t have to read it or share it. You don’t even have to keep it. In fact, throwing it away can be a way of releasing it.
Likewise, many people feel better when they are able to express themselves creatively, through art, music, poetry, or another outlet. What do you enjoy? Take some time to engage in it.
Right now, it feels like a lot is out of our hands. Yet we are not completely powerless.
Now is a good time to prioritize healthy habits. That means getting enough sleep, eating nutritious and enjoyable foods, exercising, and so on. All of these things boost your immune system, but they also boost your mental health. You are a whole system — body, mind, and spirit. What you do for one system, you do for the others.
At the same time, prioritize the health of others. Follow the CDC guidelines for handwashing, cover sneezes and coughs, and stay home if you are sick or quarantined. Now may not be the time to visit elderly relatives or people with health risks, but why not reach out by phone or Skype? You may just brighten their day — and yours.
Self care is not all massages and bubble baths — not that there’s anything wrong with those. But sometimes, good self care is simply remembering to eat, drink, shower, or rest.
You are important, and your personal needs matter. Don’t minimize them. Check in with yourself periodically. If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or sad, ask yourself what you need. Have you been drinking your water? Do you need a snack or meal? Can you open the curtains and enjoy some natural light?
And don’t feel bad about taking some time to play. Play is an important part of self care. Whether you have a hobby like drawing, knitting, or writing, enjoy video or board games, or simply feel like binging on your favorite Netflix show, playing helps relieve stress, boosts positive feelings, and recharges our batteries.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment. A lot of people equate mindfulness with meditation. Meditation is certainly one way to practice mindfulness, but it’s not the only way.
Anything that engages all five senses can help center you in your body and in the present moment. Consider putting together a self care kit filled with things that make your heart happy. Having your favorite items together in one easily accessible place relieves some of the pressure when you are feeling anxious or upset.
Yes, it’s good to be informed. But with access to 24-hour online and cable news, and the onslaught of social media information — and misinformation — it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Information is empowering, but too much information has the opposite effect.
It’s okay to turn off the TV, computer, and phone for a while. You won’t miss out on something important just because you unplug for an hour, an afternoon, or even a day. You’ll actually be doing yourself a favor.
If you can get outside in nature, that’s even better. Studies have shown that exposure to natural light and landscapes boosts mood and interrupts perseveration (obsessive thoughts). If you can’t be outside, there’s evidence to suggest that just looking at pictures of beautiful places can have positive effects.
It’s important to connect with loved ones. You may not be able to do it in person right now, so do it on the phone or over Skype. It’s easy to fall back on social media to communicate with friends and family, but social media is no substitute for actual conversations.
If you don’t have anyone you trust, you can get free, confidential support over the phone. You don’t have to suffer in silence. Call a lifeline or text a crisis counselor. They’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
When schools close, events are cancelled, and social distancing is recommended, it’s easy to feel isolated. But we are all in this together. Fear of the unknown, anxiety, and uncertainty are universal.
Right now, things may feel scary, overwhelming, and strange. It may seem like there’s no end in sight. But feelings — and circumstances — are temporary. We’ll get through this.
Today and every day, your Free2Luv family is here for you. We care about you, we support you, and we stand with you. We invite you to connect with us on social media and join us online via our Facebook community and Twitch where we livestream and chat about mental health.
Because in the end, love conquers fear — always.