Coronavirus has plunged the world in uncertainty and the constant news about it can feel relentless. All of this can take its toll on your mental health, and as somebody that is prone to anxiety, I know exactly how many people are feeling right now in having anxiety around Coronavirus.
I want to look at 4 ways in which you can protect your mental health in a time like this.
STAY ON TOP OF THE NEWS, NOT THE GOSSIP
Being concerned about your health and financial situation is no doubt very important to you, and therefore staying on top of the news is very important. My advice here is to control the amount of news that you consume in one sitting and balance the views that you read.
I spent about 4 hours the other evening reading every news article that I could find, consuming my little brain with every fact and figure around the virus and its global spread.
I finished reading about 11pm and guess what? Yep, I led awake for hours trying to digest the information I had just taken on, as well as worrying about what was going to happen in the long run.
So, keep it sensible, read the facts and ensure you are clued up for your own safety, but remember that you have a life to lead too. In the Huffington Post article regarding Coronoavirus anxiety, they recommend not reading the news at all. I think this is a bit far as you need to be aware of the current situation, however remember to keep enjoyable activities in your daily routine too.
When doing your daily research and information gathering about Coronavirus, make sure you balance the views of credible news sources.
I’m sorry to say that Facebook is probably one of the worse platforms for getting your news from (especially political and economic news). There is so much negative and fake news out there and Facebook is like a magnet for it. Fake news can be dangerous to your anxiety!
Look for reputable independent news resources but also look for sites that demonstrate statistical and rounded views. For example, I found a site the other day that really put the Coronavirus in to context regarding comparisons with other countries and viruses.
Just a caveat here is that our understanding of Coronavirus grows by the day, so this data could be out of date or less credible as time goes by. Hopefully you see the point of the example though.
STAY PRESENT AND IN THE MOMENT
One of my most powerful techniques for dealing with anxiety and stress is a concept I call ‘present moment awareness’. It’s a method that is really effective for managing anxiety around coronavirus because it stops you worrying about the future and the unknown.
Anxiety manifests itself when you worry about the future and the incontrollable things in life. Many people think about the future and what might happen to them and their families through life, but a constant focus and an excessive worry about the unknown is what usually creates panic and anxiety in a person.
Present Moment Awareness is the ability to stop thinking about the future for a short period of time and focus only on what is happening right now. It’s a mindfulness and meditation technique that I have adapted for dealing with withdrawal symptoms when quitting smoking, and for dealing with general anxiety.
Look at my YouTube Channel where you can see my two videos focused on Present Moment Awareness to beat nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Although it’s framed around quitting smoking, I think you’ll see how it can be used to help reduce anxiety through focusing on the right now.
At a time where coronavirus is infecting more and more people, its natural that the death rate along with your anxiety will rise.
Just remember that the percentages are heavily in your favour like many dangers in life, so because you can’t control the future, try to enjoy the things that are happening right now.
EAT WELL, SLEEP WELL
One of your biggest challenges when self-isolating could be to feel depressed and eat cheap junk food. Don’t do it please! If you starve yourself of vitamins and nutritious food at this time you could end up feeling worse.
It’s also important to be boosting your immune system right now by taking as many vitamins as possible. Do this through eating your recommended five fruit and vegetables each day, but where possible boost your immune system with vitamin supplements.
There is no more important time than right now to make yourself feeling great, as well as to prepare your body to fend off unwanted bugs and viruses.
When choosing your supplements make sure you get a wide range of vitamins, including Vitamin C and D. Vitamin C is your best vitamin for the immune system, and Vitamin D helps to lift your energy, normally provided by sunlight. I take vitamin D throughout the winter because it helps to keep my mood high when the sun isn’t there to provide it naturally.
Another piece of advice on this is to get as much sleep as your body needs. I talk to a lot of people about reducing anxiety and depression, and I can’t stress enough how important your sleep is to your mental health. I understand that when you are struggling with poor mental health, getting to sleep can be a difficult challenge.
Have faith though. I used to take about an hour every night to get to sleep, and now it only takes me about 5 minutes. Let me show you how I do it.
First things to do is to make sure you take yourself to bed at a reasonable time and not sit up too late watching TV or other screens.
REM is an important process that your brain needs to carry out in order to shut down and process the days events. If this doesn’t happen, then your anxiety will only be increased the next day.
Everything I have mentioned above you can just do, but I understand that getting to sleep is harder than that, and sometimes feels like something you’re not in control of.
I‘m in the process of recording a YouTube video with easy to follow steps to getting a great night’s sleep. I haven’t finished the video yet, but here are the steps for you to follow:
- Before you go to bed, write down a list of all the things bothering you and currently occupying your mind. Against each item, write down an action to do something about it. If you have no solution for it, then write down a time where you can readdress the concern and think about a solution to the problem.
The instruction here is to tell your brain that you are making plans to resolve whatever it is on your mind. Your brain is built on logic and therefore needs a solution to each problem.
- Secondly, write down one thing that happened today that was good. It’s important that you find something that was good about the day. It could be the actions of another person, or a piece of news that you heard. Even if the only thing you can think about was that it didn’t rain while driving to work, then that’s ok. You must pick something!
Your instruction is that if any other thoughts pop into your head, you must replace it with the one good thing that happened today.
When your brain processes something good that actually happened, it does a number of things; it releases serotonin in to your body and makes you feel happier, it starts a process of REM which helps your brain to unwind, and also your mind can’t think negative thoughts while you are focused and thinking about something positive.
- Lastly, lay on your back and take deep breaths in and out, focusing solely on your breathing. Do not think about anything else while you do this. Keep doing this until you fall asleep. If any random thoughts pops into your head while you are doing this exercise, then make sure you replace those thoughts with your one positive thought.
Then go back to your breathing. Keep repeating this until you fall asleep. If you wake up in the night, then keep reminding yourself of your one positive thought.
If you practice this every night, I guarantee that you will eventually master the art of getting yourself to sleep.
Social Distancing Doesn’t Mean Social Exclusion
Many countries are now moving to complete lock down or social distancing and this could certainly drive a degree of anxiety around Coronavirus for most people, let alone those of us prone to anxiety at the best of times. Although it is looking bleak right now, the balanced discussion says that we will get through this.
I would be naive to say that things won’t get worse before they get better, but some of the data above shows that context can sometime be everything. We will build antibodies for this invisible enemy, and we there will be medial advancements to better combat it in the future.
We need to stay safe, be smart, and remove as much risk of spreading the virus as possible. The first thing to do is try and use your isolation time as a gift.
It maybe that financially you would rather be working, or that you desperately want some time outdoors. The reality though is that we must do what is needed at this time, and this means we need to use this unexpected free time like it was a gift.
If you have people living in your house today, then connect with them and make the most out of your time together. If you have children, try and use this time to build bonds with them in a way that you might not when life is just busy.
Whether you have people in your house or not, take time to connect with people socially in a digital way. Talking to your friends on-line is a good way to staying connected, however I would encourage you to pick up the phone and have a conversation. You know, like we used to do before Facebook and WhatsApp!
Phone your family or friends and have a chat like you would if you visited a café pub or restaurant. Maybe you could video call them and get a healthy face to face conversation going.
I have just been chatting to a friend, and we have decided that on Friday night we will both crack open a bottle of beer and then have a Skype call!
On the topic of time, talking to people is one way of keeping entertained, but think of all the proactive things you could do with this extra time you weren’t expecting?
What hobbies do you have and can fill your time with? Do you have a musical instrument you have always wanted to learn? What books have you been putting off reading because you’ve been constantly busy? If you have children, why not teach them to bake or cook some of the family meals?
What DIY could you tackle now that you have no excuse to put it off? Make sure you don’t just slump in front of the TV because you may end up watching too much of the news!
Why not spend time focusing on you and your personal wellness? There are endless books on meditation and mindfulness that you will now have the time to read or listen to. Mindfulness is a great technique for reducing stress and anxiety, as well as helping you to feel great about yourself. Get on to Amazon bookstore and develop your mind today.
IT IS POSSIBLE TO REDUCE ANXIETY AROUND CORONAVIRUS
Many of us suffer from anxiety, and we all have our own personal reasons for why this is. You are not weak. You are not silly. You are not unjustified for the way you feel.
One thing is for sure though, anxious people will tend to see the worst situation possible. Maybe something happened in your life whereby you will naturally feel like the worst will happen, because one day maybe it did.
The likeliness though is that rarely does the worst scenario occur and quit often we get anxious unnecessarily and things do turn out ok.
I certainly can’t see into the future, but the evidence suggests that as a human race we will come out of this situation stronger. Most people will be unaffected, and a high percentage of those that are infected will most likely be fit and healthy afterwards.
The reality is that we can not control the future, however you can take actions and help your mind and body look after itself today. Hopefully these tips will help you to take care of yourself today and tomorrow. Let’s help each other reduce our anxiety around Coronavirus.
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