COVID-19: How to handle anxiety and stress during a pandemic

Hyderabad: Our nervous system is always assessing our environment for safety and/or danger. When it senses a threat to our safety it helps us focus on it to take any action against. This is called “Flight or Fright response”. But sometimes the threat can overwhelm our nervous system causing fear, agitation, sadness, helplessness, anxiety & panic.                                           

-We’re all feeling anxious about the coronavirus and concerned about isolation in the coming weeks. Just remember: Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation, Try to stay connected by keeping in touch with your friends and family. When connected don’t let the topic of corona dominate your conversations instead use humour, pleasant stories, life experiences etc.        

-Try to avoid speculation as uncertainty can overwhelm you & fuel anxiety. To stay informed, Lookup reputable sources on the outbreak (WHO, CDC) instead of WhatsApp forwards etc. Give breaks, mute & Limit your news consumption if you are feeling vulnerable.

Talk to your children – Minimise the fear and talk facts. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand. Create some structure and routine for them at home. Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Teach them proper hygiene & sanitation as they are in the high-risk group.                                                    

-Try to anticipate distress especially if you have experienced trauma or a mental health problem in the past, or if you have a long-term physical health condition (cardiac illness, hypertension etc.) that makes you more vulnerable. Seek professional help if needed especially if you are already dealing with depression, anxiety disorders, OCD etc.                                                                  

-Focus on the things you can control like reducing your personal risk rather than things out of your control like community spread. You may witness people around you panicking. On the other hand, you may experience those don’t seem concerned at all when a pandemic is on the rise, assured that it won’t affect them.

You may find yourself feeling all kinds of emotions or maybe, you are confused and don’t know how to feel. Challenge and counter your anxious thoughts (Everyone will die from this virus Vs most people are likely to make a full recovery).

– Stick to a routine & sleep schedule. Practice exercise & relaxation techniques at home like yoga/ meditation /Dance. Indulge in activities that make you happy like art/reading etc. Don’t self-medicate with alcohol, caffeine or smoking if anxious. When we are stressed, many people might choose comfort foods that are not actually good for stress and overall health instead try to eat healthy as nutrition is the key for boosting immunity. In short Practice self care.      

-Financial stress and strain can be a trigger for some of them. In that case, accept the current state of affairs and the fact that your life is going to be different for a while. If you are becoming increasingly worried about money, take stock of the resources you do have. However, don’t make impulsive decisions. It’s important to remember that this won’t last forever.

Dr. Charan Teja Koganti,
Consultant Psychiatrist
KIMS Hospital, Kondapur.

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