By Steffanie Campbell, M.D., F.A.C.P.
Right now, the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is on everyone’s radar. The rapidly evolving situation, combined with a deluge of media coverage, schools closing, and panic buying, is causing extreme anxiety for many Americans. It’s important to note that stress can contribute to a weakened immune system, so anxiety associated with the illness may weaken your body’s ability to defend itself from all pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, mold, and parasites. While none of us should ignore the COVID-19 outbreak, there are measures everyone can take to lessen the anxiety.
How to Manage Anxiety in Your Home
It’s completely understandable if you are experiencing stress or nervousness due to the COVID-19 crisis. Nearly everyone is on heightened alert, washing their hands more than they ever have and wondering if that slight cough is just allergies or coronavirus. Uncertainly is rampant, with people unsure about whether they have enough supplies in case of quarantine, how long schools, restaurants, and other favorite gathering places will be closed, and the potential impact on personal finances.
What You Can Do to Calm Your Nerves
Here are some things you can do to take a step back and calm your nerves:
• Avoid excessive exposure to the media coverage. There’s no denying that the news is saturated with coverage of COVID-19, from local newscasts to a barrage of CDC updates and presidential messages. Even social media is plastered with posts ranging from politically divisive to flippantly comedic, which is causing heated debates and mixed messages. Instead of checking the news and social media constantly throughout the day, consider taking a couple of days off from the media and social media. Another option is signing up for Google news alerts for coronavirus. You’ll receive notifications on your phone and can decide if you want to click on them. You can also deactivate your social media accounts temporarily, asking your friends to text, email, or call instead.
• Take time for stress relief. With the time you would normally spend online, you can practice meditation, take a walk, do some backyard yoga or other exercise, or indulge in that relaxing craft project you haven’t had time for. It can be as simple as taking a bath or watching a comedy. It’s not only okay to take a break from the chaos and make time for yourself, but it’s also necessary to manage anxiety.
• Do what you can to prepare for the worst. If you haven’t already stocked up on toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and food (which doesn’t mean hoarding or stockpiling), don’t stress. Grocery stores are restocking. But you should only need enough supplies to get through a two-week quarantine, if it comes to that. You shouldn’t need 40 rolls of toilet paper and a gallon of hand sanitizer. Bottled water isn’t needed if you already have a water filter. Take a look around your house, assess what you truly need, wait for a store to restock, get what you need, and then relax.
The COVID-19 outbreak and pandemic measures being taken are unprecedented in modern U.S. history. Even the calmest people can become stressed. But it’s up to each of us to do what we can to lessen anxiety, stay as healthy as possible, and practice self-care.