Even as the world battles the Coronavirus Pandemic, a new health challenge is rising. As the COVID-19 cases increase, there is also an escalation of anxiety and panic among people. This can be seen in urban as well as rural areas. And Frontline Health Workers, security personnel, people who have COVID-19, or have recovered from it, or are under quarantine, isolation, lockdown — all are experiencing varying degrees of stress, anxiety, and depression. People with a preexisting mental health condition may feel an aggravation in their problems. A wave of panic is spreading amid the public. And cases of suicide because of pandemic are already being reported.
Experts fear that low and middle-income countries like India will see a higher rate of anxiety and depression during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. While the immediate necessity is to address the respiratory infections due to COVID-19, the growing threat of stress, anxiety, depression both in the community and among health workers must not be ignored. Once the immediate crises is over, we would need systems in place to assess and treat individuals who need mental health care.
If the COVID-19 pandemic is making you anxious too, don’t ignore it. Instead, make efforts to manage your anxiety and feel better. The following few suggestions can help.
How to manage your stress and anxiety during COVID-19 pandemic
Acknowledge your feelings:
First of all, acknowledge and accept that you are feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed. Hiding your fears and keeping up a bold face might do more harm than good. Anxiety can increase your worries manifold. It can disturb your sleep patterns and make it difficult to concentrate on work. Stress and anxiety can also lower your immunity and worsen preexisting health problems. And they can cause an increased dependence on alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
It is, therefore, important to acknowledge your fears and anxiety. Don’t feel guilty about it. The world is facing an unprecedented problem, and getting worried about it is understandable. But you need to manage this worry and prevent it from turning into a mental health problem.
Limit your consumption of news:
At a time when people are locked within homes, consumption of news has increased manifold. You want to know the latest count of COVID-19 cases in your country. You want to know the rate of fatalities. And you want to know every step that the government is taking to curtail this pandemic.
But so much consumption of news can have its adverse effects. Some news sources might even sensationalize a news story, creating unnecessary panic among people. Avoid all such news sources. Do not believe the content on social media without checking its veracity.
The best strategy would be to choose one or two trusted news sources and resist the temptation of hunting for the pandemic stories wherever you can find them. Also, limit the times you access the news sources. Watching the news one or two times in a day is enough for you to stay informed while preventing unnecessary anxiety. Instead of consuming news all day long, watch something entertaining and fun.
If you fear you might have COVID-19, educate yourself about its symptoms. But don’t spend hours googling about it. Instead, check out the trusted sources like government or WHO websites. Watch your symptoms calmly. And contact your doctor only when necessary. The healthcare system is already overloaded in most countries. So disturbing your doctor every time you cough or sneeze is not a good idea.
Make healthy lifestyle choices:
When you stay inside your home all day and for so many days, it is easy to get languid and listless. But you must stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes taking a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, maintaining good personal hygiene, and keeping your home clean and well ventilated. Avoid bad habits like smoking and too much alcohol consumption. Think positive thoughts and adopt healthy habits. Take sufficient sleep and try to relax. Yoga and meditation can help reduce your stress and anxiety.
Spend time with family:
Spending quality time with your family will help you relax. Our busy lifestyle often demands the sacrifice of family time. If your area is under lockdown, it is a perfect opportunity for you to enjoy time with your family. Turn off the TV, put your phones and iPads aside, and talk with your dear ones. Share jokes, reminisce good memories, and enjoy family time. Even if you are in self-isolation or home quarantine, you can still converse with your family members. Just follow the necessary precautions recommended by your doctor.
Stay at home, but be social:
Staying locked at home no longer means being cut off from the world. And social distancing does not mean cutting down your connections with your loved ones. Instead of spending hours reading worrying news stories on your phone, use it to talk to your colleagues, friends, and relatives. Social interactions are beneficial for reducing stress and anxiety. So talk to friends, renew old bonds, share some laughs and motivating messages, and keep the anxiety and depression away.
Do things you enjoy:
You will feel less worried if you engage yourself in something you enjoy. Activities like singing, dancing, gardening, handicrafts, etc. can keep you engaged and make you feel happy. If you don’t have a hobby, pick up one now.
You can also make the best use of Coronavirus lockdown time by gaining new knowledge or skill. You can start some online courses. Or even YouTube videos can teach you cool new skills like Do-It-Yourself crafts.
In short, do something fun, and let it help you forget your worries.
Talk to your children to ease their anxiety:
It’s not only the grownups that are feeling anxious about the COVID-19 pandemic. Even children and teenagers are experiencing anxiety. When parents get worried, children notice it and feel worried too. And if a family member is affected by the Coronavirus, children can feel scared and stressed out. Parents must understand this and talk to their children about the Coronavirus problem. Listen patiently to all the fears and questions of your children. Explain to them the details about the COVID-19 in age-appropriate language. Remove their worries. You want to keep your children safe from Coronavirus. Reduce their worries about it too.
Anxiety and stress can affect your immunity and aggravate your preexisting health issues. While a dangerous virus is spreading over the world, it is vital that you stay physically and mentally strong. So, avoid the things that are increasing your worries. And engage yourself in activities that can make you healthier and happier.
We hope the tips mentioned above will help you manage stress and anxiety during COVID-19 pandemic. If you continue to feel troubled, consult a doctor. Also, look out for any disturbing symptoms in your family members. These might include the person alienating himself or herself from all others, showing increased anger or mood swings, loss of appetite or difficulty in sleeping. If you notice any marked change in someone’s behavior, don’t ignore it. If you and your family can’t help such a person towards better mental health, seek medical advice.