How to deal with anxiety caused by the coronavirus pandemic

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The novel coronavirus that first appeared near the end of 2019 has come to dominate the news and has affected nearly every facet of our lives.

As we hunker down in our homes and take steps to protect our physical health, we should also take care of our mental well-being. This article looks at some of the feelings you might be experiencing, as well as some steps you can take that might help you manage your emotions during this stressful time.

Everyone deals with anxiety differently, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stress stemming from the pandemic might reveal itself in a variety of ways:

  • Fear about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs1

Things you can do to support yourself

If the constant drumbeat of pandemic news is upsetting you, the CDC says it’s OK to step away from the news now and then. That includes social media.2

Here are other suggestions from the CDC:

  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals; exercise regularly; get plenty of sleep; and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Explore activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

While we cannot individually solve the global pandemic, “we are not helpless in light of current news events,” according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “We can always choose our response.”3 The foundation offers these tips on coping with uncertainty:

  1. Separate what is in your control from what is not. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Skip the next newscast if you want.
  2. Do what helps you feel a sense of safety. This will be different for everyone, so don’t try to compare yourself to others.
  3. Go outside. Take a walk in the neighborhood.
  4. Stay in the present. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet, gently bring yourself back to the now and enjoy the sights, sounds and other sensory experiences.
  5. Stay connected and reach out if you need more support. If you are feeling particularly anxious or are struggling with your mental health, reach out to a mental health professional for support.4

The National Alliance on Mental Illness has created an online resource guide, opens new window designed to help you cope with your anxiety. The alliance recommends using video conferencing on your computer or phone if available to feel a closer connection to the person you’re talking to.5

You might also take advantage of new technology to stay in touch with activities you enjoy. Many churches, synagogues, mosques and other organizations offer their services online too.

Need help right now?

Call your doctor or other healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row. Many providers now offer telehealth options, in which you can be seen by a healthcare professional online or over the phone.

Through June 7, 2020, Humana is waiving all costs associated with telehealth. You can learn more about our expanded telehealth benefits here.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with sadness, depression or anxiety, here are some other options:

  • Call 911 if it’s an emergency.
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1 800-273-8255).
  • Contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
  • Call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1 800 985 5990 (TTY: 1-800-846-8517) or text TalkWithUs to 66746.

If you have preexisting mental health conditions, the CDC suggests that you continue with your treatment and look for any new or worsening symptoms. You can find additional information at the SAMHSA website, opens new window.

Sources:

  1. “Manage Anxiety & Stress,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed April 6, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html, opens new window.
  2. “Manage Anxiety & Stress.”
  3. “Taking Care of Your Mental Health in the Face of Uncertainty,” American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, last accessed April 6, 2020, https://afsp.org/taking-care-of-your-mental-health-in-the-face-of-uncertainty, opens new window.
  4. “Taking Care of Your Mental Health in the Face of Uncertainty.”
  5. “COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information and Resources,” National Alliance on Mental Illness, last accessed April 6, 2020, https://www.nami.org/getattachment/About-NAMI/NAMI-News/2020/NAMI-Updates-on-the-Coronavirus/COVID-19-Updated-Guide-1.pdf, opens new window.