It's natural to worry. In this new era of social distancing, you're not alone in feeling anxious about current events.
When we feel threatened, our bodies ramp up the production of stress hormones like cortisol and encourage us to "fight or flee" the situation1. This tactic was a handy survival mechanism for our ancestors. Still, in the present day, it tends to cause more issues than it solves. For example, when people worry excessively about matters they have little control over, it can be detrimental to physical and mental health.
Coronavirus, or to be more specific, COVID-19, is the latest global threat that has been provoking this kind of panic and worry across multiple countries.
While no one is guaranteed immunity from COVID-19, some populations are at an increased risk. While a young, healthy person will likely make a full recovery, older people are at a higher risk. Those with respiratory illnesses or compromised immune systems are also at an elevated risk.
If you are immunocompromised or otherwise ill, you should be more cautious about going out in public. Do not worry yourself over this information, be pragmatic. If you are unsure about your risks, call your physician and ask for their advice.
Do your best to avoid consuming information shared on social media. Unfortunately, the internet can increase your odds of consuming misinformation. That is unless it is from a verified and trusted source, such as the CDC.
If you find that worry over COVID-19 is negatively impacting your mental health, you should practice letting go of these feelings of anxiety. Even if this seems impossible to you, try to find ways to take care of yourself.
Here are some examples -
As mentioned, it's natural to worry. Don't be angry or frustrated with yourself for not being utterly carefree during this time. Some amount of concern is healthy and even beneficial. While you shouldn't let your worry spiral out of control, don't expect to become utterly blase to the situation.
When you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed with worry, remind yourself that you are safe at this moment. Look around your home or office and try to engage your senses. Focus on the colors of birds outside your window or sound of a calming song on the radio.
Repeat a calming mantra to yourself, such as "I am doing all that I can right now."Taking a calming walk or focusing your attention on a hobby may help distract you from the ever-changing coronavirus situation.
More information can be found on your Mindfulness 101 Guide.
A therapist may be able to help you work out why you're struggling to get control of your anxiety. They may also have additional tools and resources for you to pursue.
None of this is to encourage reckless behavior. The coronavirus is still a real threat, and you should take it seriously. While panicking is not helpful, there are things you can calmly do to prepare for the arrival of the virus to your area and to prevent yourself from getting infected.
By doing the most you can to prepare and protect yourself sensibly, you may find that your anxiety eases up.
The CDC regularly updates the status of COVID-19 as well as their recommendations. Visiting the CDC's website every few days or even once a week is better than allowing a constant barrage of less reliable sources to confuse and worry you.
Remember that many of the symptoms of COVID-19, like coughing, are common signs of many wintertime illnesses. While you should not ignore sickness when it presents, do not panic every time you sneeze. It is highly likely you do not have the coronavirus. If you feel sick enough not to function normally, consult with a doctor who can officially offer you a diagnosis.
Proper hygiene is one of the best things you can do to prevent any illness, including COVID-19. Wash your hands frequently using best practices and use hand sanitizer2. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, and avoid crowds. COVID-19 is not aerosol. You are most likely to catch it from close contact with infected people or by touching contaminated surfaces (and then touching your face or eyes).
Don't be afraid to use hand sanitizer. You can use hand sanitizer to sterilize your hands, as long as it contains at least 60% alcohol3.
Don't wholly shut your life down over coronavirus fear. Doing so may contribute to extra stress and anxiety.
It's important to follow local, state, and federal health orders that encourage social distancing. That said, it's also essential to find ways of maintaining some activity and social interaction. Here are some ideas -
Play it safe, but don't stop playing altogether.
(1) Thau L; Sharma S (Feb 2019) Physiology, Cortisol
(2) Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Apr 2020) When and How to Wash Your Hands
(3) Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Mar 2020) Cleaning and Disinfection for Households
(4) Belfer I, M.D., Ph.D.; Shurtleff D, Ph.D., NCCIH (May 2019) Yoga: What You Need To Know
(5) Black D., PhD, MPH, O’Reilly G., BS, Olmstead R., PhD, Breen E., PhD, Irwin M., MD (Apr 2015) Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality
(6) Abdurachman, Herawati N (Mar 2018) The Role of Psychological Well-Being In Boosting Immune Response: An Optimal Effort For Tackling Infection