Coping with anxiety during a global pandemic

With almost 2,000 cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota alone, the days of pretending the virus isn’t a big deal are over. As the Global Pandemic causes fear and anxiety in many and makes those with preexisting mental health concerns worse, there are a few steps you can take to relieve anxiety and keep you safe.

As the COVID-19 virus spreads across the globe, many are struggling with increased anxiety and depression. According to a survey done by the mental health charity Young Minds, which included 2111 people up to age 25 from the UK with a history of mental illness, 83% said the pandemic made their conditions worse. 26% said they were unable to access support for their conditions as face-to-face services have canceled and some found online resources hard to navigate. 

While everyone may react differently to the virus, the CDC says first responders dealing directly with the virus, at-risk patients, people with pre-existing mental health problems, children, and teens are more at risk of increased anxiety. According to The Planet, the effect of the pandemic could have serious consequences on young people’s mental health. Children with mental health issues or learning disabilities may find lockdown and the disruption of their routine frustrating. They may begin to lack motivation and find it hard to get out of bed, to shower, or otherwise take care of their bodies. 

There seems to be a gap in information when it comes to children’s mental health during a pandemic. Some information was gathered after the SARS outbreak, but there is little to no information about the effect on children. Plus, if children or adults are in lockdown in abusive households, there is nowhere for them to go. The Planet states that in Jianli county in Hubei Province, China, the reports of domestic violence have more than tripled during the lockdown, going from 47 cases last year to 162 cases this year. Child abuse, neglect, and exploitation have also been reported in increasing numbers. 

A global pandemic can affect different people in a myriad of ways. Some common reactions to COVID 19 according to the CDC are concerns about regular medical care or community services, feeling isolated, especially if you live alone, guilt from the increased dependence on loved ones, and increased levels of distress in people with pre-existing mental health issues. 

While this time may be stressful, there are ways to cope with the new feelings. It is important to establish a routine in times of stress. According to the CDC, people struggling with stress in times of crisis should follow specific steps to reduce anxiety.

  1. Take regular breaks from the news, including any social media, because constantly hearing news about pandemics can be upsetting.

  2. Take care of your body by stretching or meditating, eating healthy, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and finding an exercise routine.

  3. Keep your environment clean, a cluttered space could lead to increased anxiety. Find time to unwind and do activities you enjoy.

  4. Connecting with others and talking to friends and family about how you are feeling can help destress. 

If you notice any friends or family struggling with mental health or fears about the COVID 19 virus, the CDC recommends a few steps you can take to help them. If they are more susceptible to the virus, you could offer to bring them medication or groceries or teach them the above methods of coping. However, while caring for a loved one, it is important to also care for yourself and make sure both you and your loved ones stay healthy. 

The ADAA  has a few tips for those who were already struggling with mental health before lockdown started. They include reframing your thoughts, turning thoughts like “I’m stuck at home” to“I can finally focus on myself and things around the house that need to get done.”

Try to maintain a routine and take care of your body, including waking up at your normal pre-lockdown time, showering, and getting out of pajamas. Avoid obsessing over the news by setting regular intervals of limited time to browse the news and picking good, credible websites.

Try to establish boundaries between school or work, and home life. Try eating dinner at the table and working at a desk. Incorporate a new ritual into your routine to fill time, like going on walks or having regular face-time calls with friends and family.

Finally, if you find your anxiety becoming unmanageable, reach out to a professional. Many psychologists are offering their services over video platforms. 

If a health care provider thinks you should be separated from others and you are quarantined at your home, the CDC asserted the following emotional reactions could occur: mixed emotions, including feelings of guilt, fear, and worry, stress from the experience, sadness, anger, or frustration because of your friends or loved one’s fear of the disease, guilt of not being able to perform normal work tasks. 

As the pandemic spreads, it continues to have a disastrous effect on the economy. According to the New York Times, stocks are plummeting mostly due to the historic low in retail sales and a slump in factory output. This came as a shock to many as stocks in the United States were climbing and preparing for the eventual rebound. Europe’s economy is expected to fall 10 percent from April to June. 

While there is a lot of bad news during the pandemic, it is important to recognize the good in the world too. The internet is a wonderful tool that helps you connect with friends and family that you might not see otherwise. The global response to future pandemics will be improved with experience. Some charities and medical health providers have stepped in to help, including major health insurance offering to cover care and testing, celebrities and athletes donating resources to those that the virus hit financially, new legislation offering paid sick days, and free testing for those without insurance. According to the conversation in the UK just two weeks after the lockdown was declared, the NO2 levels fell as much as 60%.

While the COVID-19 virus spreads, so can the feeling of anxiety. Keep informed of the latest on the virus and take the steps necessary to take care of your mental health.