5 Ways to Ease Your Coronavirus Anxiety
These simple tips will help you relax and put things in perspective
Know the facts.
“My advice for coping,” she says, “is the same for all the scary events and possibilities that life brings: Go for the facts — even difficult ones — because anxiety escalates and fantasies flourish in the absence of information.” But don’t overdo it, as too much information can aggravate stress.
Because the world is rife with misinformation, Dr. Lerner suggests avoiding unregulated online news sources and relying on depoliticized ones. “Under stress, people are unlikely to rethink the filters through which they see reality. It’s our responsibility to pay attention to our own most valued sources of information and to follow up-to-date instructions to the letter.”
Put the pandemic in perspective.
“The current crisis is not the only stressor most of us are dealing with,” Dr. Lerner reminds us. “If your dog just died, you lack economic resources and necessary social services or your partner is leaving you — Well, the current world crisis will obviously hit you harder than if everything in your life was otherwise moving along swimmingly.” It is normal to feel overwhelmed but what we can avoid, she says, is labeling ourselves as “weak” or comparing ourselves to others. Everyone is confronting challenges we may not fully recognize or understand.
Identify the source(s) of your anxiety.
We are hard-wired for a fight-or-flight response. “The greater the simmering anxiety,” Dr. Lerner explains, “the more you will see individuals stuck in fighting and blaming on one hand, or distancing and cutting off on the other.” This is normal, she says, but if we can identify our anxiety-driven reactivity, “we can get some distance from it, rather than being propelled into action before we have calmed down enough to do our best thinking.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Now is the time to turn toward each other. “We are here to help each other out,” Dr. Lerner reminds us, “so avoid being a do-it-yourselfer when you’re not qualified. Grab some other clear-thinking person to ask what she thinks or what he would do about stockpiling food, or taking that plane trip, or talking to little Billy about what’s going on with grandma in the hospital and his school being closed. You may choose not to follow the advice you seek, but it’s essential to have other perspectives.”
Don’t procrastinate about preparing for the worst.
Anxiety, Dr. Lerner says, can push us to under- or overreact: “So we either engage in compulsive hand washing or we do the opposite and act like the germ theory doesn’t apply to us.” And this anxiety, she says, will mount if we postpone or ignore expert counsel: “Passivity and inaction will make fear grow.” So, instead of giving up and saying, “I can’t keep my hands off my face,” Dr. Lerner suggests we trust our capacity to make necessary changes, recognize where we have agency and take common sense, precautionary measures now. “If you haven’t done your best to get a couple of extra weeks’ supply of food or medication, do it today. If you feel frozen, ask a buddy to push you to act and help you make wise decisions about how much you need of what.”