WHEN SHOULD I WORRY ABOUT...

5 Ways to Manage Your Anxiety and Fear About Coronavirus

March 19, 2020 - Katie McCallum

When it comes to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there's what you see, there's what you hear and — after taking it all in — there's how it all makes you feel.

You're being asked to stay home as much as possible. Restaurants are taking to-go orders only. Bars are closed. Schools are closed. You turn on the news and coronavirus is there. You scroll through your social feed and it's there, too. It's lot to take in, and if you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed or panicked — you're not alone.

But we're prepared, and we want you to feel prepared, too.

"We've seen epidemics before. In fact, Houston Methodist was founded as a result of the Spanish flu epidemic," says Dr. Marc Boom, President and CEO of Houston Methodist. "And over the last several months, we've worked tirelessly to prepare for the eventual arrival of COVID-19 in the Houston area. We're all in this together, and it's important that we all stay calm and work together."

If you find yourself feeling stressed about the situation, we recommend doing these five things:

Make sure you're getting the right facts

Information and news about the coronavirus pandemic is everywhere. Local news, online news sources, social feeds — everyone seems to have information, and they certainly all have opinions. Staying up-to-date is important, but you'll want to make sure that who you're listening to is getting it right.

The coronavirus pandemic is a serious situation, and you should take your cues and get your facts from a trusted source. For information about the new coronavirus, including symptoms, how to protect yourself, who's at higher risk, resources for the community and more, we recommend using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as your primary source of truth.

Stay on top of your health

You should always keep your health as a top priority, but during a pandemic, staying healthy becomes more important than ever.

"Don't forget about your health. You want to stay healthy to reduce your risk of contracting any illness, including COVID-19," explains Dr. Boom. "Staying healthy means eating healthy, getting a good night's rest and exercising."

This means that, in addition to preventing the spread of coronavirus, you should make sure you're:

 

These healthy habits will also help you reduce and manage the stress of handling the changes and challenges you face over the coming weeks.

Take control of your fear or anxiety

There's still uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic. How long will it last? How bad will it get? But keep in mind, there are a lot of things about the new coronavirus we do know — and we're learning more about it every day.

It might sound counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to control our fear of the unknown is to prepare ourselves for the fact that uncertainty exists.

"Right now, we can't say how long this will last," says Dr. Boom. "I think we should all prepare for a very unusual next couple of months, but we should also prepare for this to go on longer than that."

In the meantime, it's important to fight fear and anxiety with the things that relax us.

"If you need to unwind, go outside and spend some time with your loved ones — just remember to practice social distancing as you interact with others."

You can also fight the fear of the unknown by focusing on what you can control, like knowing your role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and maintaining as much of a sense of normalcy as you can.

If you’re concerned about your mental health, or the mental health of a loved one, we recommend the following resource:

 

Practice meditation, prayer or mindfulness

It's important to stay up-to-date on the coronavirus pandemic, but fixating on it may lead to unnecessary stress. After catching up on the news, you may want to set aside time for mindfulness, prayer or meditation.

Long, deep breaths, focusing on the present, and taking a moment to be grateful for what you have are all good ways to recenter yourself and bring a sense of calmness to your life.

Here's a simple relaxation technique you can try:

  1. Bring attention to your heart. Focus on your heartbeat.
  2. Take slow, deep breaths. Inhale and exhale to the count of five.
  3. Feel one of the following emotions: gratitude, compassion, caring or appreciation. Maintain attention to your heart and purposeful breathing.
  4. Continue for three minutes. And repeat this technique any time you feel overwhelmed, anxious or stressed.

 

Take advantage of your time at home

At first, social distancing might sound like an inconvenience — but you may want to look at it as an opportunity.

Consider using this time at home to catch up on the things that get put on the back burner of a busy life, including:

  • Doing yard work, housework and other home improvement projects
  • Reading more books
  • Calling friends and family to catch up
  • Cooking more meals at home (from scratch!)
  • Taking a break from drinking alcohol

 

Concerned you may have COVID-19?

  • If you're experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you can speak to a Virtual Urgent Care provider 24/7. The provider will help you determine if testing is needed and advise you on where you should go.
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