Since our last article on the Coronavirus outbreak, the world has seen more intercontinental transmission; more businesses impacted; more quarantines of schools, cancellations of public events, and workers staying home; more fear; and, yes, more infections. There are new travel bans, a spike in the use of essential hygienic supplies and hoarding of dry goods, and an increase in price gouging.
Though the virus is in many ways similar to typical influenza outbreaks we deal with each season, because COVID-19 is new — and a vaccine is not readily available — anxiety due to the unknown nature of the virus, and what the future holds, is at an all time high, driving our actions and reactions. Of course, not all of these responses are rational.
5 Tips For Dealing With Your Coronavirus Anxiety
Learning to manage your anxiety is vital during this time of uncertainty will not only help you make better, healthier decisions but will also improve your reaction to the crisis. Afterall, stress and anxiety can lower your immune response and increase your vulnerability to infection.
If you’re able to stay calm, make the best decisions possible for you and your community’s health, you’ll have a higher likelihood of weathering this novel outbreak of Coronavirus.
Here are a few tips.
1. Assess your risk level and act accordingly
According to the CDC, there are four risk levels to keep in mind. Acting accordingly to your risk level will help you be prepared and stay realistic. Again, if you’re not at high risk of contagion, there’s no sense in worrying as if you were.
- High Risk: Someone is considered high risk when they live in the same household, are an intimate partner of, or provide care in a non-healthcare setting with a person who is symptomatic and who has a laboratory-confirmed coronavirus infection. People are also high-risk when proper recommended precautions for home care and home isolation are not followed. Currently, the high risk categorization also applies to anyone traveling from Hubei Province, China, or someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 based solely on symptomatic presentation rather than laboratory testing.
- Medium Risk: Someone is considered medium risk when they interact closely with a person who is symptomatic and who has a laboratory-confirmed coronavirus infection, without being exposed to high-risk close contact delineated above (6 feet). On an aircraft, medium risk is being within 2 seats in each direction of a symptomatic, laboratory confirmed infected traveler. Likewise, the same risk level is given to anyone living in the same household as, are an intimate partner of, or provides care for a person in a non-healthcare setting to a person who has a confirmed, symptomatic infection while using the recommended precautions for home care and home isolation. Lastly, someone who is traveling from China but outside of the Hubei Province without any high risk exposures is considered medium risk.
- Low Risk: Someone who is within the same indoor environment as a person with symptomatic, laboratory confirmed coronavirus for a prolonged period of time but in a proximity that is not considered close contact (six feet). On an aircraft, low risk is sitting within two rows of someone who is symptomatic and laboratory confirmed, but not within 2 seats in each direction and who does not have any high risk or medium risk exposures.
- No Identifiable Risk: Someone who interacts with a symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection that does not meet the conditions for high risk, medium risk, or low-risk. This includes walking by the person or being in the same room for a short amount of time.
This graphic serves as a great visual that illustrates the risk level in an enclosed space such as an aircraft.
2. Practice good hygiene and self-care
Practicing good hygiene is one of the most effective ways to prevent yourself from being exposed to or contracting the virus. Good hygiene is also the element you have the most control over. You are responsible for your health practices and they can make a tremendous difference, for you or for someone who might be immuno-compromised and at greater risk of serious repercussions from infection.
Basic hygiene tips include:
- Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
- Avoiding touching your face, nose, mouth, and eyes
- Sanitizing commonly used surfaces
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
- Staying home when sick
- Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue (and throwing it in the trash!)
Ensure you are taking care of yourself by eating well, exercising, and practicing good sleep hygiene. Don’t forget these basics! Like hygiene habits, you are in control of these habits, which can be essential in times when you feel powerlessness.
3. Limit social media and news
How often are you reading up on the Coronavirus? Limiting your use of media during this time is important. Rely on official sites for factual information. Utilize social media cautiously. If you are looking to better understand what the virus is, how it is transmitted, and methods for detection and prevention, check out this free online course by the World Health Organization. Although it is intended for healthcare professionals, it can also be beneficial to the general public.
4. Remind yourself that worrying and feeling powerless is normal
It is okay to feel worried, anxious, and overwhelmed by what is happening. It’s a perfectly normal response, but one that you have some control over. To avoid obsessive thoughts about the virus, focus on what is within your control, practice good hygiene and good physical and emotional self-care. If you’re a parent, use these tips to talk to your children about Coronavirus and limit their own stress and worry.
5. Talk to your online therapist about it
If you are trying to limit exposure and avoid contact with those potentially infected with COVID-19, talk to an online therapist is a safe way to work through your anxiety that presents no threat of infection.
While the hype and hysteria may be driving press coverage, remember that worrying, or worse, panic, won’t keep you safe — in fact, it could impair your health. Whether it’s meditation, self-care, mindfulness, or talking to your licensed online therapist take care of yourself and your loved ones. It’s okay and normal to worry, but try to focus on things that are within your power to control.