In times of uncertainty, it’s natural to feel anxious, fearful, and depressed.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has thrown everything into chaos. Routines are in disarray, events for the next several months are canceled, and the virus itself is spreading rapidly. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay: so is everyone else. Even worse, remaining anxious for too long can hurt your immune system’s effectiveness.
Despite everything, you can fight back. The American Psychological Association did a meta-study, or a study of other studies, on how stress and the immune system are related. The result showed that reducing stress and finding “social support” can help boost your immune system. In essence, reducing your anxiety about coronavirus is one of the best ways to fight it off. There are several ways to reduce your stress about COVID-19. Here are ten ways to cut your anxiety and take control of your situation.
1. Ask for Help
You may have problems you can’t solve yourself. That’s okay. The crisis has led many charities and individuals to reach out to help more than ever before. If you need help with something – mental, physical, financial, or spiritual – reach out. You’ll be shocked at the response you receive.
2. Practice Meditation or Yoga
The top scientists of the world have scientifically validated the mind-body connection. There is a mountain of research that suggests you can fortify your mental/emotional strength and boost your immune system by finding methods to unwind and relax by using mindfulness practices. Meditation and yoga are the two most potent forms of mindfulness practice out there. One study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience showed that three months of yoga reduced cortisol and body inflammation. Both of these effects can help the immune system react more effectively to threats such as COVID-19.
3. Be Prepared and Proactive
It looks like social isolation, quarantines, and “Safer at Home” orders are going to continue through the end of April at the earliest. Those methods are all in place for a reason. Following guidelines set by the CDC and WHO (World Health Organization) will help you stay healthy and keep your immune system, “kicking like Van Damme.”
- Wash your hands every chance you can get.
- Avoid unnecessary outings or in-person activities.
- Eat healthier whole foods.
- Cut back on anything that isn’t healthy for your lungs.
- Lay off the booze and party favors; they weaken your immune system (our suggestion)
These are all easy actions that help you take back your agency. Feeling like you have control over your health will reduce anxiety. That reduction in anxiety will boost your immune system. It’s a win-win.
4. Stay Connected
Just because everyone is supposed to avoid in-person meetings is no reason to stop socializing. Just do it online or over the phone instead. Isolation and loneliness lead to stress and anxiety in most people. Talk to family and friends as often as you can to minimize feelings of loneliness, and you’ll be less anxious in general. You may not be able to solve the global health crisis, but you be of service and can call someone you love (and tell them that you love them) and ask how they’re doing.
5. Keep Things in Perspective
It may be tempting to feel bad when you see other people coping “better” with the pandemic than you are. However, it’s not a competition. Some people have jobs that are unaffected by the current crisis, so they aren’t as stressed. Others may be upbeat on social media but panicking at home.
Remember that there isn’t a “perfect” way to react to a global pandemic. Instead, just do your best and follow health guidelines as much as possible. Comparing yourself to others does no one any good while letting go will help reduce your anxiety.
6. Practice Self-Compassion
If you are feeling particularly overwhelmed, anxious, scared, or helpless, be kind to yourself. Almost no one alive today has lived through anything like the current pandemic. Intense emotions are natural responses to extreme situations. Be gentle with yourself; accept that you’re having trouble with current events. Sooner or later things will improve, both for you and for the world. Until then, don’t be too hard on yourself for having feelings.
7. Practice Self-Awareness
Take a moment and lean into why you’re anxious. This doesn’t mean you freak yourself out with the 24/7 news cycle. It means, if you sense some anxiety, ask yourself why and get curious. And then, keep it moving, don’t stay stuck in that energy. With a global event like this, anxiety can permeate everything you do, so even small tasks are stressful. But, if you can name specific things that are driving your fear/s, you can either deal with them or let them go.
8. Practice Self-Care
Self-quarantine and Safer at Home orders can tempt you to let things slide. However, hygiene, daily routines, and little rituals are the things that keep mental health on track. Johns Hopkins University has written up guidelines for how to use self-care to reduce stress during the pandemic. Whether you consider self-care to be going for your daily jog or keeping your weekly therapy appointment, stick with it. You can also consider taking up creative hobbies to help relieve stress and anxiety. Creativity helps calm anxiety and brings peace of mind.
9. Don’t Point Fingers
It’s easy to blame other people for scary situations. Anxiety and fear lead to pointing fingers and scapegoating. You may be angry at people who traveled back in February, at world governments, or at the guy who coughed on you at work. However, anger or blame doesn’t change anything. It just leads to more internal negative feelings. Instead, accept that the past has already happened and work on affecting the future.
It helps to remember that everyone is doing their best from their level of consciousness.
10. Stay Well-Informed
Unfortunately, uninformed memes are floating around, and there is a ton of misinformation out there about COVID-19. Bottom line, please don’t believe everything you see on social media. Instead, trust sources like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Go to their actual websites and read the information there. Just because a social media post sites Stanford or Johns Hopkins doesn’t mean that it’s correct. By getting your data right from trusted global health organizations, you can guarantee that you know what’s actually going on.
Uncertainty is a huge cause of stress and anxiety. When you know and trust your sources, you’ll be confident you understand the situation. Even when the situation itself is stressful or scary, that understanding eliminates the uncertainty from the equation. You’ll be less anxious because you know what’s going on. However, avoid watching the news 24/7, it will only keep your stress levels at a constant high and marinate your awareness of pessimism. That alone can create tightness in your chest.
The world is facing a mental-emotional problem unlike any seen before simply because unlike the plagues of the past, modern technology (television and the Internet) magnifies the problem repetitiously. This can create a tsunami of anxiety, fear, and stress. However, letting paralyzing fear take over your life weakens your immune system. Instead, try a few of our suggestions above; they work! Also, focus on the positive things you can change, that are in your control, and accept the things that you can’t. Your immune system will thank you for it.