Managing Anxiety and Stress During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Managing Anxiety and Stress During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are being inundated with things to worry about. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the stress and anxiety that all of the uncertainty surrounding the virus may bring.

In actuality, anxiety is a survival mechanism built into us for a reason. Much like the emergency broadcast features that interrupt routine radio and television programing, anxiety is a message from your brain telling you to notice that something important to your wellbeing needs extra attention. When anxiety works properly, it can actually enhance performance. For instance, some anxiety about doing well on a test may prompt you to study harder and earn a better grade.

There are times, however, when anxiety fails to execute its purpose. Sometimes, anxiety not only grabs our attention, but becomes our sole focus, driving our senses to a state of fear. This can in turn paralyze our ability to reason, solve problems and take action. When your anxiety prevents you from paying attention to anything other than it, to the detriment of your essential needs, it becomes a disorder.

Tips to Help You Manage Anxiety and Stress

To mitigate some of the anxiety you may be feeling right now and stay productive during this time, here are some practical tips for managing your stress.

  • Stay clear of 24-hour newsfeeds and social media. Twenty-four-hour newsfeeds tend to be alarmist and exaggerated, causing you unnecessary stress. Meanwhile, social media is often filled with false or misleading information. Instead, look at a reliable news source once a day to stay informed, but not overwhelmed.
  • Focus on what you do know. There are so many unknowns surrounding COVID-19, it’s easy to find yourself in a negative spiral. Instead, try shifting your focus to what you do know, like how to protect yourself and loved ones.
  • Take part in activities you enjoy. As much as possible, involve yourself in solitary activities you enjoy, like reading, watching amusing television or comedy films, practicing yoga, making art, cooking, sewing or any activity that is a satisfying investment of your time. Such distractions may give you a peaceful sense of solidarity with parts of yourself you don’t often indulge.
  • Try to stay calm. When your fight or flight mechanism is activated, your mental resources dedicated to higher reasoning shut down. Think about it this way – when you’re running from a tiger, you don’t stop to consult a map on the best escape plan, you just run. Unfortunately, neither fight nor flight are practical choices for us in the face of an invisible microbial enemy like COVID-19. Instead, our best course of action is to stay calm. Maintain access to those higher reasoning faculties and choose actions that increase your wellbeing.  
  • Maintain a routine. For adults and children alike, routine structures and schedules help us feel a sense of familiarity and comfort that in turn relaxes us and allows us to tune into our normal state.
  • Be mindful of the example you set. If you have children or dependent adults who rely on you, keep in mind that they look to you as a role model for how to manage this difficult time. Anxious and irritable behavior is contagious. By remaining calm and having a clear plan, you give off a quiet tranquility that may rub off on those who depend on you. Remember too, an anxious mind and body robs energy from your immune system, while calmness and serenity amplify your healing abilities.
  • Stay connected. Remember, even while sheltered at home, you are not alone. Our entire country, and much of the world, is going through this. Check in with your friends via the phone, computer or social media. Now is as great a time as ever to nurture those connections.

It’s key to stay aware, find a way to remain calm, focus on what you know and put it into action. Routine is your friend. At the same time, it’s also therapeutic to explore hidden or buried interests that may provide an enjoyable distraction. Finding productive ways to manage your stress can make a world of difference for your quality of life.

If you are experiencing overwhelming feelings of anxiety or depression that you’re unable to settle on your own, don’t let COVID-19 stop you from reaching out for professional help.

To make an appointment or learn more about the mental health services available at Tallahassee Memorial Behavioral Health Center, please call 850-431-5100 or visit TMH.ORG/BehavioralHealth.

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