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Coping with Anxiety, Stress, and Fear, in between this Pandemic

Coping with Anxiety, Stress, and Fear, in between this Pandemic

Coping with Anxiety, Stress, and Fear, in between this Pandemic

It’s safe to say that you’re feeling anxious, scared, disappointed, angry, and stressed with the current second wave of coronavirus in Delhi. Apart from the people it infects, COVID-19 also takes an emotional toll on many of us, even more so for those of us who live with an anxiety disorder. But you don’t need to succumb to this, and you’re not powerless.

Read on to explore a few tips that can help you get through these unprecedented times.

Understand your anxiety first

We’re in the middle of a global pandemic but let’s enjoy the fact that we are alive and our city is getting over the worst of it now. Coronavirus infection rate is getting better now. And the one question all of us are asking and wondering, “When is this nightmare going to end?”

For a lot of people, this uncertainty is perhaps the hardest thing to handle. We can’t possibly know exactly how we’ll be affected, and for how long this is going to last, or how bad things will get before they get better. Thoughts like this make it very easy to feel helpless and our feelings can spiral out of control into dread and panic. However, there are some things you can do during this crisis to better manage stress, anxiety and fears.

Stay abreast of the news—but don’t keep checking it compulsively

Of course, it’s important to stay well informed, particularly about what’s going on in your city, and you can follow safety precautions and do your part to slow the spread of coronavirus as advised by the authorities. On the other hand, there’s loads of misinformation out there, as well as sensationalistic coverage that further feeds into the fear. It’s important to discern what you read and watch.

  • 1. Try and stick to trusted news sources. Don’t view channels that are owned by private owners with political inclinations because they’re sold out and will give you fake news all the time. You can check out the World Health Organisation’s website as well, or follow your doctor’s advise
  • 2. Limit the number of times you check for updates. Perpetually monitoring the news and going through social media feeds can become compulsive and counterproductive; adding to anxiety rather than easing it. The limit is different for everyone, so pay close attention to how you feel and adjust accordingly.
  • 3. Step away from media if you start feeling too anxious In case you have constant anxiety, you could limit your media consumption to a certain amount and only during a certain time of day (for example watch the news for thirty minutes every evening at 5 pm).
  • 4. Ask a reliable person to share important updates If you want to avoid media and news entirely, you could ask a trusted person like your parents or friends to pass along any major news stories that you’d want to know about.
  • 5. Please verify what you share online Try and do your part by verifying information before passing it on. We all have to do our part and avoid spreading rumours and creating further panic.

Try and Focus on the things you can control

We’re living in a time of major upheaval with so many things that are outside our control, including how long this pandemic will last, how our central government is behaving, and what’s going to happen to our family and communities. That’s a hard thing to accept, and many of us will respond by endlessly scouring the internet for answers and theories on all the different scenarios that might eventually happen. But the problem here is as long as we’re stuck on questions with untenable answers outside our personal control, this strategy won’t get us much apart from feeling stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed.

When you find yourself getting caught up in the fear of what might happen, try to bring your focus back on things you can control. For instance, you can’t control how severe the second wave of coronavirus is in your city or town, but you surely can take some steps to reduce your own risk (and the risk you’ll spread it to others) of getting infected. You can start by

  • 1. washing your hands regularly (for a minimum of 20 seconds) with soap and water or a hand sanitiser that has at least 60% alcohol.
  • 2. avoiding touching your face (your eyes, nose, and mouth).
  • 3. staying home as much as possible, even if you’re not sick.
  • 4. avoiding large crowds and gatherings of any kind
  • 5. avoiding all non-essential trips to the market and travelling.
  • 6. keeping 6 feet of distance between yourself and others when you’re out.
  • 7. getting enough sleep as it helps support your immune system.
  • 8. following all the recommendations from trusted health authorities.

It’s only natural for you to be concerned about what might happen if you lose your job, when your children have to stay home away from school, if you or a loved one gets covid, or when you have to self-quarantine. While these possibilities are scary to mull over, being proactive can help relieve at least some of this anxiety.

  • 1. Note down specific worries you have about how coronavirus is disrupting your life. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, take a break.
  • 2. Make a list of all possible solutions you can come up with. Don’t get too hung up on the best or perfect options. Include whatever comes to mind that will help you get by.
  • 3. Focus on things you can solve or change, rather than on circumstances that are beyond your control.
  • 4. After you’re done evaluating your options, draw up a plan of action. When you’re done with it, put it aside and resist the temptation to go back to it, not until you need it or circumstances significantly change.

How to prevent the “what-ifs” from spiralling out of control 

If you feel that you’re falling into negative thinking or panic, ground yourself in the present moment, this can stop the negative spiral and allow your rational thinking brain to come back to its senses.

This technique is quite simple yet effective: Bring your attention to your breathing and your body. Focus all your attention on the here and now: take note of the sounds and sights around you and how you’re feeling inside your body. Continue to breathe in and out and slowly bring your mind back to your body and breathe every time it goes back to your troubled thoughts until you feel calm and relaxed.

Stay connected—even if you’re physically isolated or distant 

Evidence has shown that many people who have coronavirus, don’t have symptoms but they can still spread the virus. That’s why the biggest contribution most people can make towards making a positive difference is to maintain and practice social distancing.

Isolation and loneliness can worsen anxiety and depression, even impacting our physical health. That’s why it’s very important to stay connected as much as we can and reach out for support when we need it, even as we cut back on in-person socialising.

  • 1. Make it a priority to keep in touch with friends and family. If you have a tendency to withdraw when depressed or anxious, think about having a regular phone call, chat, or Zoom calls to counteract this
  • 2. Use social media for what it was meant to be used for; connecting with friends, family, and acquaintances—and the world. It reminds us that we’re not alone.
  • 3. That being said, keep in mind how so social media is affecting you. Don’t hesitate to mute keywords or people who are contributing to your anxiety. And do log out if it’s making you feel worse.
  • 4. Don’t let COVID-19 pervade every conversation you have. It’s important to take a break from stressful thoughts about the pandemic. Simply enjoy each other’s company; try and laugh, share stories, and focus on other things going on in your lives.

Emotions can be contagious, so be smart about who you turn to for support. Remember to turn to the people in your life who are thoughtful, level-headed, and good listeners.

Take care of your body and spirit

This is the most trying time we’ve faced in our lifetime, and all the tried-and-tested healthy choices apply, like eating nutritious, healthy meals, getting loads of sleep, and meditating. Beyond that, here are some tips for practicing self-care in the face of the unique disruptions caused by the coronavirus. Also remember to

  • 1. Be kind to yourself if you’re experiencing more depression or anxiety than usual. You’re most certainly not alone in your struggles.
  • 2. Stick to a routine as best as you can. Even if you’re stranded at home, try and stick to your regular sleep, school, meal, or work schedule. This can help you maintain a sense of normalcy.
  • 3. Take time out for activities you enjoy. Read a nice book, watch some comedy, play fun board or video games, come up with something—whether it’s a new recipe, a craft, or a piece of art. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it takes your mind away from your worries.
  • 4. Get out for a bit, if possible. Sunshine and fresh air will do you a world of good. Even a walk around the neighbourhood can make you feel better. Just make sure you avoid crowds, maintain your distance from the people you encounter, and obey any restrictions in your area.
  • 5. Find other ways to exercise. Staying active will help you get rid of anxiety, relieve stress, and manage your mood. While gym and group classes may be out of the question. you can still cycle close to home, or walk. Or if you’re completely stuck at home, look online for home exercise videos you can follow. Activities such as yoga use your own bodyweight and are great for your health.
  • 6. Don’t self-medicate. Be careful that you’re not having alcohol or other substances to deal with anxiety or depression.

It’s easy to get caught up in your own fears and concerns but amid all the stories of the government turning a blind eye to the plight of the people, fighting over ICU beds face masks or lining up outside places to get some oxygen, it’s important to remember we’re all in this together. As a quote from Italy tells us: “We’re standing far apart now so we can embrace each other later.”

Dr. Parinita Kaur,
Consultant
Internal Medicine

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