“All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 30 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

How To Manage Coronavirus (COVID-19) Anxiety

Jim Folk author
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: May 30, 2020


Coronavirus COVID-19 Anxiety image

Coronavirus (COVID-19) seems to be top of mind lately. It’s understandable with it receiving so much attention and reaction, such as wild swings in the stock market, major events being canceled, school and business closures, up-to-the-minute illness and death reports, travel restrictions, and so on.

Because of the heightened attention, many people are becoming concerned.

Unfortunately, at this time, there is still a lot to learn about COVID-19. Consequently, some sources claim that we’re overreacting to it while others claim we aren’t doing enough.

Because of the variance in reports, health agencies are caught in a “catch 22” situation. If they don’t sound the alarm and COVID-19 turns out to be a serious problem, they would be blamed for under-reacting. On the other hand, if they raise the alarm and it turns out COVID-19 is similar to the ordinary flu, then they will be blamed for “catastrophizing.”

Most health agencies are trying their best to make us aware of the potential harm but not to the point of over-reacting. That’s often a difficult balance.

In the meantime, we want to do our best to sort out the various reports and focus on the facts.

What we know so far:

The vast majority of people who get COVID-19 will be fine. In some cases, the symptoms are so mild that people don’t even know they have it.

To keep things in perspective, here are some current (March 18, 2020) worldwide comparisons:

Influenza


(October 1, 2019 to March 7, 2020)[1]

  • 36 – 51 million illnesses
  • 22,000 – 55,000 deaths
  • Average mortality rate: .1%
  • Infection rate (R0): 1.3
  • Young, and elderly with other health complications at greatest risk
  • Infectious for a few days before and up to two weeks after symptoms

COVID-19


(December 2019 to May 30, 2020)[2]

  • 5,952,145 illnesses
  • 365,437 deaths
  • Average mortality rate: 2.5 - 7%
  • Infection rate (R0): 2 - 5.8
  • 50 years old and above with other health complications at greatest risk
  • One third of hospitalizations are under 60 years of age
  • Infectious 14 days before and up to 5 weeks after symptoms [3]

  • * This information continues to evolve and more research is required

 

While there is a greater risk of death for certain groups of people, most people find COVID-19 to be mild and less invasive than a cold or flu.

The average incubation period is 4 – 5 days, with most people becoming symptomatic before day 11, and a few as long as two weeks.[3]

It’s also now thought that many of the infections come from people who are asymptomatic.

Current research has found that unlike a cold or flu, people with COVID-19 are highly contagious during the incubation period, which makes this virus more difficult to spot and contain. Many people don’t even know they have the virus until they are tested.

Furthermore, research has found that the virus can remain active in aerosols (from sneezing and coughing) for up to three hours, and on surfaces for up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.[4]


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COVID-19 symptoms:

Most Common:

  • Fever
  • New or worsening cough
  • New or worsening shortness of breath
  • Breathing difficulties

Others

  • Aches and pains
  • Chills
  • Confusion
  • Conjunctivitis (commonly known as pink eye)
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling unwell
  • Gastro-intestinal symptoms (nausea, diarrhea, vomiting)
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Neurological symptoms
  • Pain, pressure, or fullness in the chest
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat of painful swallowing

[5]

COVID 19: Symptoms Comparison

covid-19 cold flu symptoms comparison chart

Sources:[6][7]

For most people, the coronavirus runs its course in two weeks. It might take another two weeks if there is a severe reaction.

Again, most people who get COVID-19 have mild symptoms and recover.

If that’s the case, why the overreaction?

It’s actually not an overreaction, but an appropriate reaction based on some of the unknowns, such as:

  • Currently, there is a lot we don’t know about COVID-19.
  • Even though most of us have already had a coronavirus, which commonly causes colds and upper respiratory infection symptoms, this is a new strain of coronavirus.
  • Since this is a new strain, no one has immunity, which means everyone has the potential to get the virus, and each body has to build new immunity.
  • There is no current vaccine. However, vaccines are being developed. During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, it took only 8 months for an H1N1 vaccine to become available. So, there is hope! However, most experts say that a vaccine won't be publicly available for 12 to 18 months due to testing, approval, manufacturing, and distribution. But, a vaccine is likely coming. Since the risk is immediate, however, we need to remain vigilant in protecting ourselves and others right now.
  • Testing has been delayed, so it’s not known how many people have the virus.
  • Testing has also been suspect with many false-positives. More work needs to be done to ensure accurate and timely testing.
  • COVID-19 is more infectious than the flu.
  • COVID-19 has a higher mortality rate than the flu, with different age groups having different mortality rates. It’s currently estimated that COVID-19 is ten times more lethal than the flu.
  • There is a risk of mutation.
  • Isolation can prevent the spread of COVID-19, but at what cost? What will be the impact on economies, family well-being, personal finances, products and services, etc.
  • Because of the high rate of infection (RIO), outbreaks can overly tax the medical system causing many deaths due to the inability to treat everyone who develops a serious reaction.

The “overreaction” is due to the many unknowns about the virus and how it will impact society overall.

Since there is a great deal of information about COVID-19 online, such as at the WHO and CDC websites, I’m (Jim Folk) not going to reproduce it here. This article is mainly intended to give you ways to manage your anxiety while society works through the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to manage Coronavirus COVID-19 anxiety

Anxiety occurs when we believe a potential threat could harm us. Feeling anxious is part of the body’s survival mechanism doing its job to keep us safe.

You can read more about the cause of anxiety in our articles, “What Causes Anxiety?” and “The Anxiety Mechanism.”

If you are feeling anxious about COVID-19 and its implications, that’s normal since COVID-19 poses a potential threat.

It’s healthy to be aware of and take appropriate action if you are being threatened. It’s just as unhealthy to underreact to a real threat as it is to overreact to it. The balance lies in “appropriate action.”

We can use the feelings of anxiety to, first, alert us to the potential danger, and second, to motivate us to take action to avoid or deal with the threat.

With COVID-19, there are many real threats, so it’s understandable to be anxious. For instance:

  • Health threat – the coronavirus (COVID-19) can cause health problems. Some people can become very sick due to the virus, and a certain percentage die. The health implications of COVID-19 do pose a real threat.
  • Employment threat – being sick at home or being told to isolate at home can present employment and work challenges. Working from home might be new for you and you might face many unknowns. Anxious people often struggle with uncertainty and the unknown. Furthermore, some of your important work might not get done, which can impact other outcomes. COVID-19 can adversely impact your employment, which can pose a threat to your employment.
  • Financial threat – being sick at home, or away from work can create financial problems. Work closures can also create financial problems if you aren’t being compensated for being away from work. COVID-19 can pose a real threat to your finances.
  • Academic threat – school closures can negatively impact educational achievements and the financial ability to attain those achievements. In this regard, COVID-19 can pose an academic threat.
  • Social threat – isolation can be hard on people who rely on social interactions and who don’t do well alone. For these people, COVID-19 can post a threat to their social lives and feeling connected.
  • Lifestyle threat – some people don’t do well when their normal lifestyle is disrupted. A dramatic change in lifestyle, such as isolation or quarantine can pose a threat to a person’s lifestyle and overall sense of happiness.

Others can include threats to psychological, emotional, and spiritual well-being. And so on.

Here again, it’s understandable to be anxious because of how COVID-19 can threaten parts of your life.

Since COVID-19 can cause harm, and that harm is imminent, two of the three factors have merit. However, there’s a lot we can do to avoid and protect ourselves from these threats.

Recovery Support members can read more about the three factors that create fear, and how to use them to reduce and eliminate fear, in the “What Is Fear?” article in chapter 6 in the Recovery Support area.

While we aren’t going to address all of these threats in this article, we are going to address the threat of getting COVID-19, since this applies to everyone.

If you’d like help with any of the other threats, we recommend connecting with one of our recommended anxiety disorder therapists. They are specially trained to help people overcome problematic anxiety.

To overcome anxiety associated with COVID-19, the first step is to clearly identify the threat.

Identify the threat

The COVID-19 threat is: getting the coronavirus and the implications.

The overall goal, then, is to avoid getting the coronavirus.

Once the threat is identified, the next step is to make a plan to avoid getting COVID-19.

Make a plan, adjust the plan as required, then follow the plan

Having a plan of action can reduce anxiety because it addresses one of the factors that create fear. Knowing that you have a way to avoid the threat and that you are working to protect yourself can reduce the threat. As the threat is reduced, anxiety is reduced.

There are many ways we can avoid getting COVID-19. Here are the most common:

1. Avoid exposure

It’s currently thought that COVID-19 is primarily passed through inhalation. If a person who has COVID-19 coughs or sneezes, virus contained in droplets are blown into the air (aerosolized) where they are inhaled. When a person inhales the virus, they become infected.

It’s not known how long droplets containing COVID-19 virus remain in the air. For instance, some sources say the droplets immediately fall to the surface below, whereas other sources say they can remain in the air for several hours.

It’s also not known how long droplets that fall to a surface remain active. For instance, some sources say the virus can remain active for a few minutes, whereas others say they can survive for hours, and even longer depending on the surface (stainless steel, plastic, and other hard surfaces extend their activity), temperature (colder temperatures extend activity), and humidity (less humid environments extend activity).

2. Social Distancing

To avoid exposure, we want to keep a distance from people (at least six feet), especially those who are coughing or sneezing. If you want to decrease the risk, increase the distance.

For example, if you see someone coughing or sneezing in an aisle at the grocery store, avoid that aisle for at least an hour. That might give the virus ample time to drop to the floor. For better protection, come back later in the day or the next day.

You should also keep that distance in restaurants, movie theatres, and so on. It also means no hugging or kissing as a greeting.

For instance, if someone wants to come close to you, ask them to keep a safe distance (of at least six feet or more). You can explain that you are doing your best to avoid getting the virus.

Instead of shaking hands, hugging, or kissing hello, wave or say “hello” from a safe distance.

Furthermore, avoiding crowds and environments where there is close contact, such as mass transit, airplanes, trains, etc., can prevent against being exposed to the aerosolization of the virus.

Moreover, avoid non-essential travel, even travel that involves taking your vehicle. There are many ways to pick up the virus during travel, even if you do your best to keep yourself safe.

3. Wash your hands and avoid touching your face

The coronavirus becomes active in the body the moment it enters the body. Common virus entryways include the mouth, nose, eyes, and around the eyes. Keeping your hands away from your face can prevent the virus from entering your body should you pick up the virus on your hands.

The coronavirus can remain active on surfaces for potentially hours, and you won’t know if a virus is present merely by looking at the surface. Frequently washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of above 60%, can kill the virus and prevent it from entering your body. The higher the alcohol content, the better.

The more diligent you are at washing your hands and keeping your hands away from your face, the more protected you are.

If you have to go outside of your home, sanitize your hands frequently. If you don’t have hand sanitizer, wash your hands immediately when you get home. Don’t touch your face until your hands are thoroughly washed.

You might also want to sanitize the door handles and anything else you touch on your way in, and in your home, prior to washing your hands. This will ensure you hadn’t contaminated anything in your home before you had a chance to wash your hands.

4. Isolate

Isolating yourself in a COVID-19-free environment is the most effective way to prevent getting the coronavirus. This is why many localities are recommending staying home and working from home for those that can.

If you keep yourself away from those who have COVID-19, you won’t become infected because you won’t be exposed to the virus.

My wife, mother-in-law, and I are isolating at home. We have compiled enough supplies to remain isolated for now. As supplies diminish, we will venture out and pick them up after they are ordered online. The supplies will be delivered to our door or our vehicle, but we won’t have any contact with the delivery person.

Our wonderful neighbor has also said she would pick up supplies for us if we need them, as she has to go out to work each day. We’re thankful that she looks after us so well.

Once we have these supplies, we’ll clean them with the appropriate solutions and wash our hands thoroughly before using them.

We’ve also told family members that we are isolating ourselves and that no one is welcome into our home during this time. While my wife and I would most likely have only a mild reaction to the coronavirus, my mother-in-law is nearing 90 and has a compromised immune system due to an underlying health issue. We’re doing what we can to keep her safe and away from the virus.

If you have elderly family members, I encourage you to do your best to look out for their safety. For instance, don’t visit them in person unless you are absolutely sure you aren’t carrying the virus. Being tested is the only way you can be sure. Since many people don’t know they have the virus, they can still pass it to others even though they are asymptomatic.

Also, if your elderly family members are able to isolate themselves, pickup and deliver supplies to their door as they need them. Do your best to ensure what you pick up is as virus-free as possible, and that they follow a protocol to disinfect the supplies before using them, which includes thoroughly washing their hands after disinfecting the packaging.

Moreover, check on them regularly. You can also visit family members via phone, SKYPE, or Facetime. Even though they are isolating themselves, you still want to ensure they are feeling connected to family and friends.

Also, don’t hoard supplies. There is no need. Get what you will use but don’t “warehouse” so much that others can’t get any. Even though suppliers generally have large warehouses stocked with supplies, you want to ensure everyone can get what they need in a timely manner.

If you run low and need more, there are many online shopping opportunities to resupply. Many offer pick up or delivery services.

Last, keep yourself informed both about the virus and your local guidelines.

5. Healthy immune system

Viruses tax the body’s immune system. Maintaining a healthy immune system is your best defense against intruders, such as bacteria and viruses.

This is not to suggest a healthy immune system will prevent you from getting the virus, but that a robust immune system will have an easier time overcoming it.

You can boost your immune system by:

  • Getting regular good sleep (between 6.5 to 8 hours per night)
  • Getting regular rest
  • Regularly practicing a deep relaxation technique
  • Reducing stress
  • Containing worry
  • Eating a healthy diet rich in whole and natural foods, and avoiding junk, fast, high calorie, and highly processed foods.
  • Keeping yourself well hydrated.
  • Regular exercise
  • Getting fresh air
  • Spending some time in the sun

There are many sources online that talk about how to build and maintain a healthy immune system.

At this time, it seems taking vitamins hasn’t proven helpful against viruses, including COVID-19. Research has also found taking vitamin supplements isn’t helpful overall. Eating a healthy and well-rounded diet is the most effective way to maintain good health, including having a healthy immune system.

6. Healthy hygiene

Here are some tips to keep you healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic and throughout your life:

  • Regular handwashing (20 seconds or more with soap and water).
  • Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, for the same reason, to kill germs (bacteria, viruses, etc.). Did you know viruses can reside in fecal matter?
  • Regularly sanitize frequently used surfaces, such as doorknobs, taps, sinks, counter-tops, tables, chairs, drawer handles, handrails, light switches, and appliance handles and controls (microwave, dishwasher, stove, fridge, etc.).
  • Clean washrooms and fixtures regularly.
  • Wash frequently used hand towels and cloths.
  • Wash your floors regularly (most germs reside on the floor, but floors often don’t get cleaned enough).
  • Cover all coughs, such as coughing into a tissue, handkerchief, cloth, or sleeve. Wash your hands after you cough or sneeze. If you use a tissue, immediately throw it in the garbage so that the virus isn’t left on a surface or in your clothes. Handkerchiefs, cloths, or sleeves should be prevented from touching other surfaces and washed frequently.
  • Gently blow your nose regularly, which can prevent germs from colonizing. Wash your hands after you blow your nose.
  • Regularly sanitize frequently used objects, such as your phone, computer keyboard, tablet, etc.
  • Avoid smoking as it has been linked to a higher mortality rate overall, and especially with those who get the coronavirus.
  • Avoid alcohol because it stresses the body and suppresses the immune system.
  • Don’t share personal items, such as eating utensils, drinking glasses or bottles, phones, tablets, etc. If you do share them, sanitize them before you use them again.

7. Have fun, make the best of the situation

Just because you might be cloistered away doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and enjoy the change of pace.

Rather than sitting and nervously worrying about how things will turn out and when life will return to normal, find ways to have fun, enjoy your downtime, and enjoy the people you are hunkered down with.

You can also reach out to family and friends via the telephone, social media, SKYPE, Facetime, etc. Just because you are keeping yourself isolated doesn’t mean you can’t talk with anyone and get caught up.

Once the weather warms up, you can also go outside, into your yard, or sit on your deck or patio. Isolation doesn’t mean you have to be inside. It means you have to distance yourself from those who might be infected.

You can also enjoy those books you’ve been meaning to read, take an online course, watch those videos you’ve always been wanting to watch again, start that new hobby, and so on. You can also read inspiring and uplifting materials, such as Serenity Prayers, Footprints, etc.

Isolation doesn’t mean you have to suffer. There are many pleasurable ways to spend this downtime. It can also be a great opportunity to increase the good things in life.

When you should seek medical assistance:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says patients showing these symptoms should seek medical care immediately.

In children:

  • Fast, labored, or trouble breathing
  • Skin turning bluish
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Being unusually hard to wake up, unusually slow to respond, or not interacting
  • Being unusually irritable, such as the child doesn't want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In adults:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion

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If you do get the coronavirus:

Quarantine

  • Monitor your symptoms. If you suspect you have COVID-19, phone your doctor or medical helpline. Do NOT go to your doctor’s office or to the hospital. Most people who get the virus don’t require medical attention or hospitalization.
  • Keep track of your symptoms. COVID-19 symptoms gradually worsen with the second week generally being the worst. Tracking your symptoms can help you gauge your condition’s progress.
  • Call your doctor and let them know about your symptoms even though your symptoms are mild. This can help prevent potential exposure risks.
  • Get tested if that is available in your area. Testing can help your doctor and local health authorities track your condition and possibly track down others who might have been exposed.
  • Stay home and isolated. Plan to stay home and isolated until your infection has cleared up. Try to stay separated from other people in your home, using a separate bedroom and bathroom if possible. Wear a face mask if available, or cover your mouth and nose so that you reduce the chances of spreading the virus.
  • If your condition worsens, contact your local health authority promptly. Then, follow their recommendations.
  • French authorities suggest voiding anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, because they noticed it could worsen the condition.[8]

Most importantly, stay home and away from others until you are symptom- and contagious-free. Current recommendations suggest two weeks but that may change to five weeks.

Just because COVID-19 might not affect you too severely doesn’t mean it won’t for someone else.

Again, if you are sick, STAY HOME so that you don’t infect others. Then, follow your local health authority’s recommendations.

Managing anxiety

If you have a plan and are working your plan, you should notice a decrease in anxiety. If you are finding that your anxiety is stubborn, here are some ideas to consider:

Being anxious can make things seem much worse than they are

Being anxious activates the body’s stress response, which causes many body-wide changes to help us deal with a threat. A part of these changes includes heightening activity in the fear center (amygdala and others) of the brain.

This heightened activity is supposed to increase our detection and reactivity to danger. Consequently, the stress response can make things seem much worse than they are.

If you are feeling that the situation is truly dire, it could very well be that your stress hormones are making things seem worse.

You can reverse this by calming yourself down with calming behavior and giving your body time to use up or expel the remaining stress hormones. As your body adjusts away from stress hormone stimulation, you could see things much clearer and less threatening.

Regular deep relaxation and rest can prevent stress responses from skewing your perception toward danger.

Visit our “Stress Response” article for more information about how anxiety and the stress response affect the body.

Moreover, just because you feel anxious doesn’t mean you are in any actual danger. You’re going to feel anxious when you think anxiously. To avoid this, learn to focus on the facts and not on the imagined fears.

Feelings aren’t facts.

Learning to contain anxious behavior puts you in charge of your anxious feelings rather than it seeming like your anxious feelings control you.

We explain containment and many ways to implement containment in chapter 6 in the Recovery Support area.

Be comfortable with uncertainty

Anxious people most often don’t do well with uncertainty. That’s because most of us have learned at an early age that uncertainty can lead to unhappiness, disappointment, loss, and even harm.

Because of our negative experiences with uncertainty, we created a belief system that says, “uncertain things are dangerous.” Then, we behave as if all uncertainty is dangerous. Over time, anxiety becomes the default response to uncertainty.

Consequently, uncertainty automatically creates anxiety because we expect that the next uncertainty will likely also result in unhappiness, disappointment, loss, or harm.

However, just because we have learned to respond to uncertainty with trepidation doesn’t mean we have to. Uncertainty merely means we don’t know how things will turn out. It doesn’t mean uncertainty is dangerous.

Therefore, we want to deliberately change the meaning we’ve associated with uncertainty. Instead of uncertainty being associated with danger, we want to associate uncertainty with the real definition of “not known yet.”

We also want to keep in mind that uncertainty can also mean good and even great things. We often have associated uncertainty with danger and anxiety because we had some dangerous experiences related to uncertainty when growing up (some of us have had many dangerous experiences associated with uncertainty, so it is the predominant association).

But, we’ve had good experiences, too. We remember the bad more than the good because the body’s survival mechanism is supposed to remind us of the dangerous experiences as a way of trying to keep us safe. So, the “danger” association is more easily remembered.

Recovery Support members can read more about danger’s associations and reminders in the “Mr. Amygdala, put that file in the ‘Inactive’ drawer’” section in chapter 14 in the Recovery Support area.

When dealing with uncertainty, we want to reframe uncertainty’s meaning and use calm behavior rather than anxious behavior. We also want to focus on the facts and not on what we can imagine.

With regard to COVID-19, we know we won’t become infected if we keep ourselves safe, as mentioned earlier. We can’t get what we aren’t exposed to.

Even in the worst-case scenario that we do get the virus, there’s only a very small chance of getting really sick. The chances of dying through other medical causes is far higher.

So, while we’re waiting for more information, there is no reason to fear uncertainty. It will all come to light in time.

Worrying about uncertainty is a waste of time, energy, and the body’s health. We want to learn to calmly tolerate uncertainty and remain patient as more becomes known.

You can use this opportunity to change your approach to uncertainty.

Be patient

Anxious personalities also typically struggle with patience. It’s not patience itself that they struggle with, but the unknowns that require patience. When you become more comfortable with uncertainty, you’ll also become more patient.

Furthermore, many anxious people are impatient because they feel vulnerable to harm when things aren’t known. This vulnerability fuels their anxiety.

If you are implementing the previously mentioned protection strategies, you ARE safe now. Therefore, you aren’t in harm’s way and can relax and be patient.

Again, you can use this time to develop the skills of keeping yourself calm and being patient as time unfolds.

Control what you can, be comfortable with what you can’t

Anxious people like to be in control so that they can feel safe. The belief is that if they can control things around them and make them safe, they will be safe. Feeling safe reduces anxiety.

However, a belief system like this also means the reverse is true. A lack of control means things might not be safe, therefore they could be in danger. A threat of danger increases their anxiety.

Since COVID-19 does pose a threat, and the implications are currently unknown, those who struggle with control could feel anxious.

To decrease anxiousness, focus on what you can control, such as some of the ideas we mentioned. Then, leave what you can’t control to time.

The reality is, our personal realm of control is limited. We can only control what is within our ability. We need to become comfortable controlling what we can, and then leaving the rest while still being comfortable that many things aren’t in our control or are ours to control.

Controlling what you can, becoming comfortable with uncertainty, and being patient can reduce anxiousness.

You can take this opportunity to become comfortable with controlling only what you can and being good with everything else.

Similar to uncertainty, a lack of control doesn’t mean danger. It means there are things that aren’t within your control. You can still feel safe even though there are unknowns and things that are out of your control.

Stay in the moment

Too often we spend our time dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. Either spend of time robs us of the joys of today.

This is especially harmful if we spend our present time imagining all sorts of future ills. Instead of enjoying the peace and happiness of the present, we fill that time with fear and upsetness based on imagined catastrophes that almost never happen.

Yes, we want to plan for the future so that things go well, but we also want to live in the moment so that we can enjoy life as it is.

Rather than dwelling on “what ifs” and wishing to have this all over with, we want to make the best of what we have now. Staying in the moment keeps us grounded in the present and prevents us from running down unhealthy and upsetting worry trails.

Life often isn’t nice, happy, and safe

Anxious people often have a belief that says, “life SHOULD be nice, happy, and safe.” When circumstances occur that counter this belief, they become anxious and even angry.

The problem isn’t that some things aren’t nice, happy, and safe, but that our expectation that they should be is unrealistic.

We are going to struggle in life. Things aren’t going to work out right. We are going to lose things we cherish. There is pain, strife, hardship, struggle, and disappointment. That is our reality.

To reduce this type of anxiousness, we want to dispel the unrealistic expectation that life should be nice, happy, and safe, and embrace that life is often difficult where we are constantly transitioning from one challenge to the next.

Adopting attitudes of resilience, persistence, and determination will reduce this type of anxiousness. In fact, an antidote to anxiety is not safety, but resilience.

Again, you can use this time to develop these important life skills. Not only will you reduce your anxiety, but you’ll also benefit many other areas of your life.

Deal with what you know and not with what you can imagine.

Worry solves nothing

Anxiety is supposed to get our attention that danger has been detected. As mentioned, anxiety is an important part of the survival mechanism that keeps us safe.

However, once we’ve identified the threat and made plans to address it, anxiety has completed its job. There is no value in continuing to imagine the worst and ringing the alarm. In fact, continuing to worry does much more harm than it prevents.

Therefore, worrying about a detected threat produces no benefit, but can cause harm (stress, hyperstimulation, and symptoms).

You can use this opportunity to develop your containment skills.

Again, we explain containment and how to use it with examples in chapter 6 in the Recovery Support area.

Just because we can imagine the worst, doesn’t mean it can come true. In fact, most of what we worry about never comes true.

We’re always facing our mortality

We all know that at some point we’re going to die. We also know that death could occur at any time, and none of us has any guarantee we’ll live a long, healthy life.

Despite this reality, we still live and have expectations that our time hasn’t come yet, such as expecting to not have an accident on the way home from the store, not getting hurt in an accident at home, not getting a serious medical condition, not dying from the medical condition we already have, not having a serious weather event wipe out our home and family, and so on.

We face threats every day, yet we’ve become so used to them most of us have put them completely out of our minds.

Facing daily threats is our reality.

Facing a pandemic is similar. We’ve had other pandemics. Some were mild, and some were tragic. Some people died, and many didn’t. This is also our reality.

Rather than rebelling against it, or anxiously cowering from it, we need to summon the courage to face it as we do all of our other challenges.

As mentioned, do what we can to keep ourselves safe despite the risk, but continue to live with courage and wisdom.

The other reality is that we have no choice when real challenges come our way. Shrinking with fear and anxiety solves nothing but does ruin the time we do have.

We want to live boldly yet wisely. Mitigate what we can, and leave the rest to time. There will always be a tomorrow.

Focus on the good

Thoughts drive emotions. If you are feeling a certain way, that means you are thinking a certain way.

For instance, if you are worried and fretting about COVID-19, you’ll be anxious and feel anxious. If you are focusing on the good and positives, you’ll feel upbeat and hopeful.

Even though this time can be challenging, we can still focus on what is good.

Rather than using our imagination to scare ourselves, we can use it to bring joy, comfort, and peace.

Take this opportunity to grow

Anxiety isn’t a force that takes hold of us. Anxiety results from apprehensive behavior. If you don’t want to be anxious, change the behavior.

Challenges that push us out of our comfort zone can help us grow psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually if we use the time constructively.

We can use the COVID-19 pandemic to help us grow out of our old unhealthy behaviors and into new and healthy behaviors that can not only benefit ourselves, but others, as well.

Protect and care for the elderly

The elderly have the greatest risk of death from COVID-19. They generally also struggle more when dealing with a virus.

To help ease their burden and suffering, protect them from infection. Stay away unless you have been tested for coronavirus and have tested negative. Even then, keep at a safe distance until the pandemic ends.

You also might find ways to help them, such as doing yard work, picking up groceries and supplies, picking up medication, and so on. Dropping these items off at their door but not going in can insulate them from becoming infected.

Be sure to call them or Facetime with them regularly. Most often, the elderly live lonely lives because the younger generations are busy with their own families. Many of the elderly would like nothing more than to feel connected and still valued by their family and friends. Just because they are older doesn’t mean they don’t need your love and attention.

Seek professional help

If you are having difficulty with anxiety or what can seem like out-of-control worry, connecting with a therapist can bring peace and wellness.

Experienced anxiety disorder therapists are trained to help people overcome issues with problematic anxiety. And often, just talking with a professional therapist can turn an otherwise highly anxious day into one of peace and contentment.

All of our recommended therapists have personally experienced anxiety disorder and have overcome it. They know the hardship anxiety disorder can cause, but they also know the peace overcoming it can bring. They are more than happy to help you overcome problematic anxiety, and especially during difficult times, such as during this coronavirus pandemic.


 

For more information:
Talk with your doctor and stay tuned to your local health authority.
CDC website
WHO website

We will be updating this article as new information comes available.

Many thanks to Grace Lian, Chris Papastamos, Brian Sellers, Nancy Saggio, and Larry Rohrick for their contributions to this article.



The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.


Additional Resources:


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REFERENCES:

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 13 March 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/preliminary-in-season-estimates.htm

2. Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), 15 March 2020. https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

3. Baud, David, et al. “Real estimates of mortality following COVID-19 infection.” The Lancet – Infectious Diseases, 12 March 2020. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30195-X/fulltext

4. "New coronavirus stable for hours on surfaces: study." National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 17 March 2020, https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-03-coronavirus-stable-hours-surfaces.html

5. World Health Organization (WHO), 15 March 2020. https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus

6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 15 March 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

7. World Health Organization (WHO), 15 March 2020. https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus

8. Lansdowne, Laura Elizabeth. “Anti-inflammatory Drugs May Exacerbate Coronavirus Infection.” TechnologyNetworks.com, 16 March 2020. https://www.technologynetworks.com/drug-discovery/news/tackling-coronavirus-avoiding-anti-inflammatory-drugs-and-prioritizing-paracetamol-332109