How to Keep Your Coronavirus Anxiety From Spreading

Five essential steps to protect your mental health during scary times.

I opened my email this morning to see a message from Wanderlust that “Corona Kicked our Asana.” They’ve called off events and deeply discounted their merchandise by 75%. Even the yogis are nervous.

My friend calls me to tell me there are long lines in Seattle grocery stores given the escalation there. Two minutes before, I’d just booked a trip there.

I’m not an expert in contagious disease, so despite my best attempts to scour credible sources like the World Health Organization and CDC, I cannot predict the full toll.

With constant breaking news about the latest outbreak, anxiety and fear can be just as contagious as the virus itself. Worry can help protect us, but it can also take on unproductive forms.

Here are some measures to take to foster resilience during challenging times:

  1. Avoid hype contagion. Constant replays of “breaking news” can be anxiety-inducing. While each of us should work to stay apprised on recommendations for current updates and precautions, research shows incessant attachment to news can trigger anxiety, particularly those who already struggle with germ and health phobias.
  2. Step up your self-care routines. Fears can paralyze us. Routines can be highly protective during times when we feel we have lost control. Include activities on your daily checklist that nourish your mind, body, and soul. Work to be in the moment and cherish anything positive in your current circumstances. Invest yourself in proper sleep, nutrition, hydration, and physical activity to keep you best positioned to cope with stressors.
  3. Share your concerns. It’s human to be fearful. Talking through your worries with trusted confidants can help ease tensions. Try to surround yourself with people who demonstrate optimism and pay heed to risks without inflated drama. Relationships are protective factors towards resilience.
  4. Harness principles of mindfulness. Mindfulness teaches how to adopt an appreciation for impermanence—that nothing stays the same. While this particular scare might take time to solve, it won’t last forever. Try to approach each day with a focal point of being present and nurturing positive emotions; while noticing negative emotions and sensations and allowing them to be recognized without judgment. The fears, along with the threats of this illness, will eventually pass.
  5. Perform acts of kindness. The impact of COVID-19 should not be minimized or oversimplified. Many have lost their lives, loved ones, and the freedom to come and go. Businesses and industries of all sorts are taking a massive hit. Consider what kinds of gestures, acts, and intentions you can contribute to those who are impacted. Research shows that during times of unease and crisis, we can find comfort in helping each other through.

*This post is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice. If you or someone you love is affected by anxiety, evidenced-based treatment can provide tailored strategies for your own unique situation. The information here is based on the scientific literature, along with my research, clinical and teaching practice, but should never be overgeneralized given the complexities of our responses to our social worlds and our own personal variables.


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