28th August 2020
by HealthyMe Digital

Understanding anxiety

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, many people have begun suffering heightened anxiety with regards to their health and the possibility of contracting the virus. Feeling anxious in certain situations can help us avoid danger, it is how we have evolved to keep ourselves safe. It is common to feel some anxiety during periods of change or uncertainty, therefore, if you are feeling anxious or worried during this time, you are not alone.

Anxiety is a normal response to stress, however, it can develop into a mental health disorder if the feelings of worry, anxiety or fear are strong enough to interfere with your daily activities. If this is the case for you, please seek professional medical care and advice. The strategies discussed in this guide are for people experiencing heightened feelings of anxiety due to the current pandemic situation and is not intended to replace any advice, guidance or mental health care plans provided by your doctor or healthcare practitioner. 

If you have a diagnosed anxiety-related disorder, please continue to follow the advice and guidance from your healthcare practitioner.  

Seven strategies to manage your anxiety

Here are seven practical ways that you can keep feelings of anxiety at bay if you are starting to feel overwhelmed. 

  1. Manage your thoughts

Anxiety often tricks us into thinking about worst-case scenarios and feeling as though we do not have the capacity to cope. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to your thoughts and keep things in perspective. There are three ways to help manage your thoughts:

  • Channel your anxious energy into action – stay informed from trusted sources, plan and prepare.
  • Focus on what is under your control. That is, consider all those things that are in your direct control and focus on those. Everything else outside of your control, stop focussing on and let go.
  • Manage your thoughts by reframing your mindset – apply the Mindset Shift Tool.
  1. Limit your exposure to social media and the news

Being exposed to constant coverage of COVID-19 can perpetuate uncertainty and heighten your anxiety. While it is important to stay informed from credible sources, experts suggest you limit your exposure. It is best to check news updates and/or social media once in the morning and then in the early evening and try to limit the amount of time to no more than one hour in total per day. Refer to the article Setting Boundaries for Social Media & Accessing the News.

  1. Be present

Try to focus on the here and now and not the past and not the future. Live in the moment and take one day at a time. Reassess your goals for this period while in social isolation. Think about what can wait, what needs to change, and alter your routine and plan your day accordingly.

  1. Maintain social connections

Maintaining good social connections is essential to keep feelings of anxiety at bay. Having a strong social network allows you the opportunity to share concerns, talk to someone your trust about the way you are feeling and seek support when needed. It is challenging to maintain connections while there are restrictions in place and social distancing rules, however, there is a range of great networking technology available to maintain these connections. Video technology such as WhatsApp, Face Time, Zoom, WeChat and Messenger allow us to connect remotely with friends and family.

  1. Look after your physical health

One of the key strategies to manage anxiety and maintain good mental health is to look after your physical health. Consider the below to help keep good physical health:

  • exercise regularly,
  • eat nutritious and healthy food,
  • get good quality sleep,
  • watch your caffeine intake,
  • moderate alcohol intake,
  • drink plenty of water, and
  • practise relaxation.
  1. Practise self-care

Self-care activities are the things you do to maintain good health and improve wellbeing. Some self-care activities might already be part of your routine, such as eating regular meals, enjoying a hobby, or spending time with friends. However, during periods of anxiety, self-care sometimes takes a back seat to other responsibilities.

  1. Seek professional medical advice and care

Remember it is ok to ask for help. For most people, the anxiety will be temporary and will reduce over time however, if you are feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, it is important that you seek professional support. Many medical centres are offering telehealth services (consultations held over the phone or via video conferencing). Please consider accessing the support resources available:

  • Your doctor or health practitioner
  • You are encouraged to explore the many free virtual mental health support services available in your country

In summary

It is common to experience health concerns and anxiety during this time, and for most people, the anxiety will be temporary and ease over time. Be sure to continue to follow your local guidelines around social distancing and isolation and continue to practise good hygiene. 

Applying the seven strategies above will help you manage your feelings of worry and concern, however, if you are not coping, please seek professional advice and support.

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