March 10, 2020
Feeling anxious about the recent spread of coronavirus (known as COVID-19) is completely normal, especially since the media has been covering the outbreak around the clock. We are still learning how the virus will impact us, but the most important thing to keep in mind is: don’t panic.
Mental health experts from Hackensack Meridian Health share key tips to manage anxiety related to COVID-19.
1. Limit exposure to media, focus on the facts
When you’re feeling concerned about something that’s being covered in the news, it’s natural human behavior to keep checking the TV, radio and social media to see the latest reports. Instead of checking in to mainstream media that may sensationalize some of the more extreme claims or cases related to COVID-19, stick with reliable sources, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for the facts.
Better yet, take a break from the news and social media and focus on the things that help keep us happy and healthy, like quality time with family or a walk outside.
2. Reduce your risk of getting sick and spreading germs
One thing we can all do to reduce fear and anxiety related to COVID-19 is to do our part in reducing the spread of infection. Making smart decisions and practicing good hygiene really do help. Here are some tips:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper arm.
- Clean your hands. Frequent washing helps protect you and others from germs. Wash hands often for at least 20 seconds, using soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available and your hands are not visibly dirty, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. However, if hands are visibly dirty, always wash hands with soap and water.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread this way.
3. Make self-care a priority
Whole body wellness provides a strong foundation for managing stress. During mental distress, a healthy body helps minimize symptoms of anxiety and depression, while a healthy mind supports effective problem-solving and a positive outlook. These practices, in concert with common sense precautions designed to ward off coronavirus, will keep us all a lot safer and happier.
- Practice slow, mindful breathing.
- Turn to friends and family for help and support.
- Spend time in nature.
- Get a healthy amount of sleep.
- Exercise to release mood-enhancing endorphins.
- Listen to music.
- Avoid substances known to increase anxiety such as tobacco, alcohol and cannabis.
- Eat foods rich in anxiety-reducing nutrients.
- Choose leafy greens or whole grains for magnesium, cashews or egg yolks for zinc, salmon for omega-3 fatty acids and avocados for B vitamins.
4. Recognize the good
While it’s true that a new virus is quickly spreading and the unknown can be scary and overwhelming, we can’t lose sight of how much work is being done every day to help keep us healthy. Scientists, health care providers and government officials are all working tirelessly to protect us and keep us safe. Feeling gratitude and recognizing the good has been proven to increase happiness.
5. Know when to seek professional help
If fear or anxiety brought on by COVID-19 is interfering with your everyday life, it may be time to seek support from a mental health professional. This is especially important if you have underlying conditions that are exasperated by stress.
Next Steps & Resources
- Decipher fact from fiction with myths about COVID-19 explained.
- Contact a mental health provider if you’re feeling severe anxiety.
- Get more information about our Urgent Care with Behavioral Health.
Clinical contributors to this article:
Hamid Masood, M.D., Courtney Emery, APN and Jackie Bienenstock, DNP, RN-BC from Hackensack Meridian Carrier Clinic.
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.