These are unprecedented conditions. We are being asked to physically distance, but to remain socially connected. We want to understand the risk factors associated with COVID-19 so we can manage them effectively, but we’re advised not to immerse ourselves in too much information because it can become overwhelming and distressing. Or maybe you want to help, but you’re not sure how to reach out safely and effectively, which is leading to feelings of helplessness and guilt.
The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything most of us have ever experienced, and stress stemming fear of the illness, knowing someone who is ill, financial effects, juggling work with home responsibilities, and worries about children and other loved ones are escalating. Here are 10 tips to help you manage anxiety during this difficult time:
1. STAY CONNECTED. Social distancing means minimizing physical contact with others, not eliminating connections. Make staying in touch a priority and set-up a phone or video call, send a text or email, engage on social media, or play a virtual game together.
2. STAY INFORMED BUT DON’T OBSESS. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider limiting your media consumption or stepping away. To stay informed about what’s happening in your community and continue to do your part in slowing the spread of COVID-19, stick to trustworthy sources, such as Manitoba Health, our local public health authority, Public Health Agency of Canada, and the World Health Organization. (The World Health Organization has an incredible array of simply-written, attractive communication tools you can access or share with employees or loved ones, from information about myths, to parenting during stressful times, proper hygiene techniques, and how to protect overall well-being in your household: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
3. LOOK AFTER YOUR BODY. Eat well. Stay hydrated. Exercise daily. Sleep.
4. LOOK AFTER YOUR MIND. Consider practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. If you’re new to relaxation practice, consider downloading an app to help guide you. If you’re experiencing stress and anxiety that is overwhelming and interfering with your ability to function, contact a mental health professional. (The Province of Manitoba recently announced a virtual therapy program. Other programs available for free to Manitobans include Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba’s new help line and Kids Help Phone.)
5. DO THINGS YOU ENJOY AND TRY NEW THINGS. Set aside time each day to do things you enjoy. Some activities may be affected by local physical distancing recommendations, but you may consider modifying them. If your favourite activities can’t be modified, consider trying something new.
6. CARE FOR YOUR PHYSICAL SPACE. Clutter may increase anxious feelings and make it more difficult to relax. Make your bed; dust; sweep or vacuum; put things back when you’ve finished using them. If you’re working from home, considering creating a dedicated work space that you can walk away from during leisure time.
7. HELP OTHERS. Altruism can improve your attitude, make you healthier, happier, and reduce stress and anxiety. If you’re able, consider signing up to help Manitobans at HelpNextDoorMB.ca.
8. MAINTAIN A ROUTINE. Even if you’re stuck at home, sticking to a regular sleep, school/work, exercise, and meal schedule can help maintain a sense of normalcy.
9. AVOID SELF-MEDICATING. Recreational drugs and excessive alcohol can not only increase feelings of stress and anxiety, but can also disrupt sleep patterns, cause unpredictable changes to your mood, and lead to additional concerns such as physical dependence.
10. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL. Reduce your stress and anxiety by focusing on things within your control, such as handwashing, healthy hygiene practices, and physical distancing.