How to Deal With Anxiety in the Age of COVID-19
You may have heard it a million times, but it bears repeating: We’ll all get through this, one Netflix Party at a time.
A lot of us deal with poor mental health on a daily basis, and at times like this during the current global pandemic, our mental well-being may decline even further. With the news of sickness and death pouring in from all corners of the Earth and reports of bare grocery store shelves, it’s difficult not to exist in a perpetual state of worry. I’m here to tell you that we’ll all get through this and to offer some tips for coping with any anxiety you may be experiencing.
But first, calm
First things first, take a deep breath. It’s easy to drift into panic mode, especially since we’re inundated with news of the outbreak 24/7 on TV and social media. People are either not taking it seriously and causing anxiety to those who understand the severity of the pandemic or overreacting by buying way more supplies than they need, making those who cannot find necessities feel underprepared or just plain worried about being unable to eat or practice basic hygiene.
As long as you’re being careful by washing your hands, disinfecting high-contact surfaces, and practicing social distancing, you’ll be alright. And remember, social distancing isn’t necessarily for your sake. It’s to protect people like the elderly, pregnant, or those with compromised immune systems.
Set up your new normal
If you have to work from home, it’s important to set a routine for yourself. Don’t try to work in bed in your pajamas, grabbing fistfuls of Corn Pops out of the box with one hand while you scroll through email with the other. If you don’t have some kind of check-in system that your office uses to make sure you’re working, it’s easy to slack off, binge-watch Netflix shows, or sleep the day away. Since you’re eventually going to go back to work, it’s imperative that you maintain your regular schedule so that when you do have to resume a normal commute, getting out of bed in the morning doesn’t feel like summiting Mt. Everest.
When you wake up, get out of bed, take a shower, and put on some clothes — you don’t have to don a power suit, some jeans or loungewear will do. Go through your usual AM routine (coffee/tea/brekkie), and then sit down to work at an actual table or desk. Take a break for lunch whenever you usually do, and clock out at your usual time. Treat it like a regular workday, just without the drive/train ride. If you find yourself unable to focus without the structure of an actual office, try the Pomodoro method. Breaking your periods of productivity into chunks could help you get a lot more done than staring at the ceiling willing your brain to work.
Take advantage of the free time
For a lot of freelancers out there, work is scarce or nonexistent during this time, thanks to the virus. The smaller organizations and businesses whose work is heavily skewed towards social events or who can’t afford to operate during this time have canceled gigs, leaving freelancers high and dry. Being out of work sucks not just because you’re idle but because it’s taking money out of your pocket. There are some lists and spreadsheets out there with opportunities for remote work, and hopefully, quite a few people will be able to secure jobs that way.
While I can’t play Daddy Warbucks for everyone in need, I can suggest a few ways you could fill your free time. Find little things to do around your house each day, like a honey-do list of sorts for yourself: Replace that dead bulb in the hallway, do the pile of laundry you’ve been collecting for 2 weeks, reorganize your pantry, clean your fridge, etc. This is also a good time to learn a new DIY craft or lose yourself in a good book or tackle that YA series you’ve been meaning to read. I personally recommend the Red Queen and Throne of Glass series. The Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist was just released not too long ago, so you could work your way through that.
You could also practice yoga or deep breathing, stream a movie or show with friends using Netflix Party, have a virtual dinner date via Facetime, or practice mindfulness. Don’t worry about having to be productive during the downtime if you don’t have to. Remember, rest is also essential.
Work off some steam
Boredom + anxiety is often not a great combination. You have so much more time on your hands to worry about everything, and sometimes you might feel so restless and frustrated that you want to scream. When that happens, try to blow off some steam with a home workout. There are tons of free videos on YouTube like those offered by my favorite FitnessBlender. Cassie Ho of Blogilates has created a “14-Day Quarantine Workout Plan” for everyone who needs to get their fitness on while they self-isolate at home. With these resources or any others you find on the vast interwebs, you can boost endorphins for a better mood, improve sleep quality, and keep you active while we wait out the storm.
Put the phone down
Like I mentioned, living in the age of portable technology social media means that we are flooded with information every minute of every day. During the pandemic, Facebook and Twitter timelines are awash with news of infection rates, closings, and product shortages, and the same is on TV when you watch the news. These days, things seem to have gone from informative to panic-inducing, and for those with not-so-great mental health, it might be harder than usual to take it day by day.
Try to keep the media exposure to a minimum to reduce anxiety. If your phone has the capability, limit your time on apps like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and CNN to an hour or two each day. I generally have timers set for social media because sometimes seeing people live out their seemingly perfect, happy lives makes me compare myself to them unfavorably. Timers also ensure that you don’t hurt your eyes or lose time scrolling infinitely on feeds. It’s a win-win.
Stay safe, stay home if you can, and wash your hands. And don’t forget to check in on your friends and family to make sure that they’re doing alright. We’re all in this together, so let’s do our best to flatten the curve. And if you’ve got any tips that you use to combat anxiety during the pandemic, let me know in the comments below. We could all use some new coping mechanisms during this time.
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