How to Cope: Anxiety and COVID-19

Photo Courtesy of Harvard Health

By Renee Rasmussen

It’s easy to say that 2020 was not what the world expected it to be. Between increased political tensions, a worldwide pandemic, and protests and riots around the United States, this year has been one of constant change and adversity. 

Although we all cautiously watch as America reopens, the effects of COVID-19 are hard to escape. Even as businesses, churches, and restaurants reopen, many new restrictions have been placed, making outings feel stressful and limiting; with these circumstances, it is natural to feel uncertainty and anxiety. 

Change is never easy to adapt to, but changes such as these are enough to make anyone feel more anxious than normal. 

When dealing with anxiety caused by quarantine, COVID-19, or other major events, it is recommended to unplug from social media and the news. While staying informed is important, it is not necessary to be consuming media all day. Limit your media time to a specific amount each day—possibly two chunks of 30 minutes—to avoid obsessing over news coverage or other media content that can make you feel overwhelmed and helpless. 

If you have had a particularly anxious few weeks, try changing up your routine. Start a new project to keep your mind busy, create a new exercise routine, or listen to a lighthearted podcast. If you think the limited social interaction is causing your anxiety to heighten, call a friend, schedule a group FaceTime, or get coffee (safely) with a long-time friend from home. 

The COVID-19 crisis can also cause an increase in social anxiety. Going out in public after being in quarantine for so long can feel intimidating and scary, especially with the new social distancing protocols. If you’re feeling anxious about being in public and are scared of offending anyone or breaking any rules, first take a deep breath. 

It is impossible to please everyone. Therefore, the first thing to do before you venture outside is to set a reasonable standard for yourself. You won’t be able to follow everyone’s rules, so it is important for you to follow the rules set by reputable sources and understand that this obedience still may not be enough for some people. 

Additionally, try not to seek reassurance that you are always in the right. The world is a scary place right now, but try to be confident that you are doing all you can to stay safe and keep others safe. You may make mistakes along the way, but you are human. 

Another thing to remember is that it is natural to feel uncomfortable or awkward in new or unusual social situations. You may have negative feelings when standing in line at the store or when you wear a mask, but those feelings do not mean you are doing something wrong. 

Overall, it is important to have patience with yourself and those around you. These are unprecedented times filled with many new regulations that we are still unfamiliar with. It is completely natural to be feeling anxiety during these times and to need to spend extra time on your mental wellbeing. 

If you would like to speak to a professional without leaving the comfort of your home, The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has resources available for online therapy.

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