It’s critical to support your mental health and improve your resilience during this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Here are practical ways to handle COVID-19 anxiety apparent in insomnia, symptoms of depression, and anxiety:
How to handle COVID-19 anxiety – first check your sources
Reading inaccurate information is an effective way to cause anxiety! Check the sources you rely on for information about the virus because misinformation is widespread. The sites you read should rely on experts who publish evidence-based science in journals. Safe sources include sources that protect the public:
- CDC coronavirus (COVID-19) page
- World Health Organization COVID-19
- MEDLINE COVID-19
- The National Health Service for the UK and COVID-19
- FDA COVID-19
If you’re concerned about symptoms that may resemble COVID-19, the CDC provides a symptom checker. Reading false data about COVID-19 can cause undue anxiety. However, it is crucial to avoid information overload. Immersing yourself in negative news regarding the virus can further increase your anxiety. [When I had a sinus infection recently, my GP even took the precaution of sending me for a COVID-19 test. Negative result, which reduced my anxiety. The other benefit was it gave me firsthand insight into the testing process! – Kim]
Many people have had to handle COVID-19 anxiety manifested in insomnia. If you have ever had a rough night, you know how frustrating it can be to toss and turn all night. Digital clocks feel very unforgiving at 3 or 4 a.m. Workers employed as professional communicators are known to suffer from insomnia due to workloads and deadline pressures. Even doctors suffer from stress causing insomnia: the American Academy of Sleep Medicine issued a position statement regarding the importance of sleep among doctors to decrease physician burnout. Stress-related insomnia can cause negative outcomes in your personal and professional life.
Those with mild to moderate insomnia can consider practicing better sleep hygiene. Go to bed at the same time and each morning (even on the weekends). Be consistent. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and relaxing. Remove all electronic devices like your television, computer, and smartphone from the bedroom. Eat small meals, avoid caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime. If you work out during the day, you can reduce your stress and improve sleep, according to the CDC.
Depression and anxiety
Some have diagnoses of depression and anxiety from the past. However, in this confusing time, the coronavirus has affected numerous aspects of life- spiritual, work, and social connection. Feeling anxious or down is normal during this time.
Depression can stem from feeling hopeless in the face of the unknown – when will the coronavirus subside? Depression is more than just having a sad day – it’s a clinical diagnosis for those who experience a persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest.
Talk to your primary care provider about being tested for Vitamin D deficiency or thyroid conditions. Vitamin D supplementation can decrease symptoms of sadness, according to the NIH. Patients with autoimmune thyroiditis exhibit an increased risk of depression and anxiety. By treating both of those conditions, you may alleviate some of the symptoms.
If you have a clinical diagnosis of depression or anxiety, reach out to your therapist and continue your medicine regimen. However, if you think your sadness or angst are crossing lines that affect your daily life, reach out to a trained professional. Any thoughts of harming yourself should be immediately addressed by calling the suicide hotline.
Resources for anxiety and depression
Both depression and anxiety can be exacerbated by stressful situations and lack of self-care. People have to handle COVID-19 anxiety now as part of their overall stress and depression. If you are looking for solutions, add the following tools in your toolbox to resolve stress.
- Try Yoga: Not a yogi? Now is a great time to start. Consider a streaming yoga or mobile apps to get the full experience while social distancing. Yoga has been proven to decrease stress and improve mood.
- Meditate: Meditation is using mindfulness to calm down. Headspace is providing deals related to COVID-19 to healthcare workers and there are other mobile apps like Calm.
- Breathing: Even if yoga isn’t your thing, yoga breathing has incredible benefits. Sit up tall, extend your spine and breathe in and out using only your nose. Extend the inhale and exhale to five counts each. Controlled breathing can relax your mind and body.
- Laugh: Read a book or watch a comedy.
- Love: Connect with loved ones through video chat or conference.
- Get outs: Go for a walk with your dog or stroll in nature and get some natural Vitamin D.
- Physical action: Keep up with your fitness. go for a run or dig out your weights
- If you still feel down, make an appointment with a therapist. You aren’t alone – many therapists do virtual counseling or social distancing in face-to-face consultations during this time.
- Give yourself the grace to take time for you. Stop being so hard on yourself. If self-care doesn’t happen, then how can you care for others?
Resilience to handle COVID-19 anxiety
Being resilient is important in the face of a crisis. Resilience is your coping ability when facing emergencies and wishing to return to pre-crisis status. Psychological resilience means looking at problems as acceptable circumstances or problems that can be changed. There are steps to take to improve your resilience.
- Own that your thought is a thought, and your feeling is a feeling. Avoid struggling against it and just accept it and let it pass. Dealing with tricky thoughts is human.
- Be present at the moment with all five senses. My favorite trick to make a panic attack pass is to force myself to say one thing I can see, one thing I can hear, one thing I can touch, one thing I can smell, and one thing I can touch (i.e., the green leaves fluttering on the branch, the sound of cars down my street, my baby’s head, and my cup of tea).
- Be engaged. Focus on your values and what is important to you.
- Practice gratitude and look for the good things in your life. Be grateful to your body and what it has given to you. Practice gratitude to your self and your world.
- Treat yourself with compassion. Would you say that to your best friend? Respect yourself and become more self-aware. Feel confident in your skill
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More insights to help you handle COVID-19 anxiety
This article provides many more insights for comms pros about responding to the issues raised by the pandemic.
Author of this post
Caitlin Goodwin MSN, CNM is a board-certified Advanced Practice Registered Nurse with more than 12 years of experience as a nurse. She currently works as a Certified Nurse-Midwife for the Cleveland Clinic.