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How To Manage Anxiety Around Coronavirus
If you’re feeling extra anxious about coronavirus you’re certainly not alone – Lysn psychologist Nancy Sokarno says health related anxiety is most definitely increasing amongst the community.
“Individuals who have previously suffered with health related anxiety have presented with exacerbated symptoms as the media continues to catastrophise the coronavirus pandemic,” Sokarno told Women’s Health.
“Panic buying has sent people into hysteria and amplifying the need to be ‘prepared’ for an unknown ‘dooms day’.”
Sokarno says hyper vigilance and somatisation is becoming more common. This is when physical symptoms are caused by psychological or emotional factors.
“The more stressed we become, our cortisol levels rise and our immunity becomes compromised,” Sokarno explains.
Melbourne-based GP Dr Preeya Alexander says it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed with everything that’s going on.
“I went to the supermarket today and started to feel very anxious myself as I roamed the aisles and saw all the panic buying that is happening,” she told Women’s Health. “When people are panicking around you it can be hard to stay calm.”
Despite the significance of the pandemic, it’s important to strike the balance between a healthy level of concern and hysteria.
“We all should be doing our bit to “flatten the curve” – which basically means slow the transmission of this virus in the community down to protect the vulnerable individuals and the healthcare system,” she says.
Accept that it’s normal to feel sad, stressed and scared about the situation, but know that there are methods for reducing anxiety around COVID-19.
1. Put in appropriate measures
It’s important to follow the guidelines from our health authorities on hygiene and social distancing to help protect our community’s most vulnerable, but there is no need to act beyond what they currently advise. The World Health Organisation states that most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others who are older or immunosuppressed.
“Use your logic and rationale to understand the appropriate and realistic measures that should be put into play to ensure your health and safety,” Sokarno says.
“Treat the coronavirus like you would any other illness or disease and take precautionary measures that see you washing your hands appropriately, coughing into your elbow or into a tissue and discarding it immediately, wiping down commonly used surfaces with disinfectant, being cautious about contact with others in large groups or confined spaces, staying home if you are feeling unwell.”
2. Listen to appropriate sources, but don’t over do it
Log off social media and get your advice from health authorities.
“Listen to scientific experts rather than the media for your updated information,” Sokarno says.
Sources like the World Health Organisation and the Australian Department of Health are your best bet, but that doesn’t mean you need a constant updates about the situation at hand.
“Avoid watching the news constantly and checking news feeds,” Alexander advises.
Try to switch off by turning off notifications from new sources and setting timers on your social media use.
3. Challenge your irrational thoughts
Sokarno explains that cognitive distortions and fear inducing behaviour cause more panic than the coronavirus itself. Just because you think something doesn’t make it true.
“Stay vigilant but aware of the sensationalised nature of this situation,” she says.
“[Use] evidence based thinking to rationalise negative automatic thoughts, ensure that you are challenging the thoughts, and in turn the behaviours, with logic.”
Instead of letting yourself spiral into the worst case scenarios coronavirus presents, counter each thought and really consider how likely they are. If you’re thinking “all of my loved ones will die from this virus” challenge it with facts such as “most people who contract coronavirus make a full recovery”.
4. Keep moving
Although health authorities are encouraging social distancing you’re still fine to go outside or keep moving indoors.
The largest and most extensive study of its kind found that even one hour of working out – whether it’s a gentle stroll or a HIIT sesh – each week can improve mental health.
“A walk or run, which isn’t in a crowded space, is great for stress,” Alexander says.
5. Try mindfulness techniques
Here are some simple meditation techniques you can try.
6. Talk to your friends and family
The current climate is undoubtedly anxiety-inducing and self isolation can take an additional toll on mental health. Although we’re being encouraged to keep physically distant from others it’s incredibly important to stay close to your loved ones in other ways.
“Speak to calm, measured friends and family and have other topics of conversation other than COVID-19,” Alexander says.
7. Talk to a professional
“Talk to someone,” Alexander says. “If your anxiety is escalating there are psychology services already offering phone and video consults.”
Lysn is online counselling service offering appointments with qualified psychologists from the comfort of your own couch.
8. Above all be kind to yourself and others
“Be kind to yourself,” Alexander says. “It is OK to feel worried and anxious, allow yourself some more time for self care.”
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