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  • Writer's pictureDr Kirsten Wooff

Five ways to cope with anxiety about coronavirus

Updated: Mar 11, 2020

The coronavirus crisis has been widely spread across the media with information about sickness, quarantines, death-tolls, panic buying, and share-markets tumbling. All of this breeds anxiety across communities as people start to grapple with the uncertainty of the illness and its potentially wide-reaching effects such as job losses.

Anxiety increases when we feel that the likelihood of an event happening and the perceived awfulness if it did, is more significant than our ability to cope or be helped if it happened.

At Resilience we work with many clients in managing anxiety. Here are some basic techniques to help you manage your anxiety during the outbreak.

1. Plan ahead to gain control

Research what you can do to avoid catching the virus. Washing hands and personal hygiene are the most effective ways of reducing the risk of catching the virus. Refer to official guidelines as to what is necessary in regard to preparing for a large outbreak (this avoids herd behaviour - when people do what others are doing instead of using their own information or making independent decisions). Practice relaxation strategies and keep a consistent schedule. If you are worried about potential job losses or an economic downfall, create contingency plans ahead of time.

2. Limit news exposure

Obtain information from reliable information sources, and limit how much you research information and how much you are exposed to hearing news reports (e.g. through television, radio etc.). Having a cap on how much information you read can contain anxiety. Keep focused on the basic facts as endless trawling through the internet is often unhelpful and exposes you to misinformation.

3. Continue to meet your basic needs

It is important to continue to get enough sleep, eat frequently and healthily, engage in enjoyable activities, and to exercise regularly. We can continue to engage in these activities even at home.

4. Keep things in perspective

As I wrote this I heard the news headline "Chaos breaks out in Italy as the death toll rises dramatically". When media focus on the the worst aspects of a situation and sensationalize the facts we can easily lose perspective. Take a breath, remember that the death rate still remains relatively low compared to the influenza we are exposed to every year. When we look at the facts, we may see that it is not as likely as we thought that we will catch the virus, and that if we did, it does not inevitably mean death. Similarly, we have survived economic downfalls in the past, so discussing with others how they coped in the past, and how to best prepare for this can help reduce anxiety.

5. Continue to engage with others

Isolating ourselves from others can reduce our mood, and increase anxiety. Connecting with others allows us to maintain our support networks where we can share how we are feeling, share facts, and support each other. Social media can be an effective method if conventional methods aren't available but be wary of the spread of misinformation over these platforms.

When these coping mechanisms aren't enough to help you stay on top of your anxiety, it's important to reach out. We can support you in overcoming this and getting on with life.

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