Managing anxiety during the coronavirus outbreak

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 28, 2020

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With each new case of coronavirus (COVID-19), anxiety is growing, almost palpable in public areas. One of the first things to remember is that having anxiety about this is completely normal. With that being said, working to manage anxiety is important.

Anxiety can present physically as well as mentally. It may make you feel weak, nauseous, hot or sweaty and, in some cases, impair your immune system. Working on lowering anxiety can improve your mental and physical well-being. Here are some tips:

Trust reliable sources for information – The best place for information on COVID-19 is the CDC website. It will provide you with information about the virus and also about how to keep your home, work, and school safe. It also has a section for updates on the virus and other pertinent information.

Limit news coverage and social media – One of the most common triggers for anxiety in general is social media and the news. It’s not necessary to give it up entirely, but don’t spend all day on Facebook or watching the news. Information on social media can be skewed or inaccurate that causing unneeded fear or anxiety. Again, if in doubt and you want more information, refer to the CDC.

Assess what control you do have – You may not be able to control how fast the virus spreads, but you do have some control. Take this time to assess those things. Remember the best way to prevent the spread of disease is frequently washing your hands. If, in the past, you weren’t spending the full 20 seconds washing, take the time now. Doing this simple step will make you feel like you’re more in control over your personal health.

Take care of yourself – This is the perfect time to practice increased self-care. Anxiety can make use feel out of control and unable to focus. Do some deep breathing exercises or a guided meditation. Challenge irrational thoughts that increase anxiety or panic. Use this time to create a plan that helps you feel more relaxed.

If you’re sick, stay home – If you don’t feel well, stay home. Remember, it’s also flu and allergy season, and that can make us feel sick. If you are sick, try to only leave your home if you must get medical care. Remember that you can use your MyOchsner portal to communicate with your medical providers. Your doctor can assess your symptoms and point you in the right direction. Remember to always cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and use a tissue. Wash your hands and avoid close contact, such as shaking hands or hugging. These are all things that you can do to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and take control of your life.

Hopefully these are helpful skills that you may use in the upcoming days. Remind yourself that it is completely normal to feel anxious and that in time with the tips mentioned above, it will pass even in these uncertain and sometime scary times. Take the time to do what’s best for you and your family.

— Submitted by Cassie Rockweiler, LCSW and Jefferson G. Bohan, PHARMD, BCPS