A version of this article was originally posted in the IDONTMIND Journal.
In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world forever.
We’ve made changes to our everyday lives. We’re inundated with news everywhere we turn. We’re making sacrifices to protect our physical health and the health of everyone around us.
With that, there has been a lot of anxiety about the whole situation. Paul Gionfriddo, the President and CEO of Mental Health America (MHA), observed, “As the number of cases of COVID-19 increase, so does the associated anxiety.” MHA experienced a 19 percent increase in screening for clinical anxiety in the first weeks of February 2020 and a 12 percent increase in the first two weeks of March 2020.
The numbers don’t lie. This pandemic immediately began taking a toll on our collective mental health.
If this is true for you, know that you are not alone. All of us are feeling it. It’s completely normal to feel worried — about how long this will last, whether you or your loved ones will be impacted, and if you’re prepared enough for a quarantine.
Yes, some things are out of our control, but there are plenty of things we can do for ourselves — little things, little steps, day by day. Here’s what you can start doing right now to help calm some of your Coronavirus-related anxiety and boost your mental health.
Know that your feelings are valid
It’s okay to feel worried, stressed, overwhelmed, angry, or scared. That’s natural and totally understandable. This is probably the first time any of us have experienced anything like this, and anything that you’re feeling is okay. Knowing that your feelings are valid can help you understand them.
Don’t dwell on your fears
There’s no reason to sugar-coat it: this is a difficult time in the world, and people’s lives are being turned upside down in a lot of different ways. But dwelling on your stresses and fears rarely helps you see the light at the end of the tunnel, so focus on what you can control and try not to get stuck focusing on the negative.
Work through the symptoms of anxiety
Most importantly, you have to feel like you can handle all of the symptoms that anxiety throws your way. When you’re in the middle of an anxiety attack, we want you to feel prepared. Take a look at How To Fight Back When Your Anxiety Attacks. This will help you find some calm again.
Be mindful of where and when you’re getting your news
Everywhere you look and everything you read has something to do with COVID-19. (Case in point: this article!) There’s a lot of information floating around, and it’s hard to weed out what’s real. And knowing the facts can really help ease your anxiety. So go straight to the source: the Center for Disease Control’s Coronavirus page or the World Health Organization. There are up-to-date facts and information that can help anyone and everyone.
It’s also incredibly easy to get sucked into a news whirlpool for your entire day. Don’t let that happen! Give yourself 15 minutes every day to get caught up with the situation, and then try to move on. It can be tough to break out of the endless news cycle — but just do your best.
Start the day with something uplifting
If you’re like us, you may start your day with a dose of news. Learn from our mistakes, and switch to something uplifting and positive. Watch some YouTube videos, Facetime someone you love, listen to a comedy podcast. The way you start your morning sets the tone for the rest of the day, so make sure that it’s happy and motivating.
Figure out what the risk is for you
Sometimes, the best thing to ease anxiety is to be armed with all of the facts. So it may help you feel a little better if you read through what the risk for you actually is. Check out the CDC’s information on how to lower your risk of getting sick, and who exactly is at a higher risk. Having the facts can help calm some of your fears.
Talk about it
Like always, we’re going to try and get you to talk about your mental health. And for better or worse, Coronavirus is making it even easier to open up to the people you love. There’s a really good chance that people in your life are feeling the exact same way right now. Anxiety is higher than ever, and just talking about it makes things feel a little less scary. Try it, and see how it can help you.
Take a mental health test
It’s important to recognize when worry turns to anxiety. If you’ve been asking yourself, “Am I just stressed out or is this an anxiety disorder?”, then take our free, confidential anxiety test. We’ve shared the reasons you should take a mental health test before, and now is the best time to check in with your mental health. The results from a mental health screening can lead you to amazing resources that can help you deal with COVID-related anxiety.
It’s important that we all take steps to be as proactive as possible to keep COVID-19 transmission to a minimum. But excessive worrying isn’t going to fix anything. Accept that this is where we are today, and focus on what you can control.
If you need some extra help with Coronavirus-related anxiety, text MHA to 741741 to reach a trained Crisis Counselor at Crisis Text Line. The counselors are just a text away, and they’re ready to help you through whatever feelings you’re struggling with. And there are a ton of other resources available on Mental Health America’s Covid-19 Resources page.