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How to Handle Feelings of Anxiety Relating to the Coronavirus

Person with protective antiviral mask, chemical decontamination

Many people are experiencing feelings of anxiousness in relation to the rise in reported cases of the coronavirus around the world and especially due to its recent spread here in the United States. For those in China at the center of the outbreak, its impact on their mental health has been undeniable. Yet, even in areas not yet heavily affected by the spread of coronavirus, people are expressing their concerns and worries.

When the media goes into hyper coverage of an event, such as a flood, hurricane, violence, or the outbreak of a virus, it is common for people who watch a lot of news media to experience a rise in feelings of anxiety. People start to wonder, “What if that happened here? Will it happen? What can I do?”

With the coronavirus, those symptoms could include obsessing about information on the virus, difficulty sleeping, and a fear of catching it even if it has not been reported in their area.

The intensity of these feelings and symptoms can range from a minor inconvenience to seriously impacting their ability to function at work and at home. If you are feeling this way, there are things you can do to help deal with it.

Turn Off the News

It is important for all of us to stay informed about what is going on around us, but if you are feeling overwhelmed by concerns about the coronavirus, limit the amount of news you are consuming. You do not need to eliminate watching the news altogether, but try no to obsess over coronavirus updates either.

If you follow news outlets on Facebook or other social media platforms, hide them for a while so they stay out of your news feed. If you normally come home from work at night and turn on the news, consider watching something else you enjoy or limiting the amount of time you watch the news.

Focus on What You Can Control

The increased feelings of anxiousness over a situation that is largely out of our control may cause us to make irrational choices. 

We cannot control how world governments or those around us are reacting to the outbreak, but it is important to remind yourself what you can control. 

Remember that you do have control over yourself. As mentioned above, take common health precautions. Wash your hands. Be on the lookout for flu-like symptoms. 

You can take reasonable steps to prepare yourself for a more widespread pandemic. Find a trusted source of information about the outbreak, and stick to that instead of sensationalized or false stories you may see on social media or even in the news. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) would be two examples.

Seek Help if Needed

It’s normal to experience feelings of worry and stress over news of a health crisis. If those feelings continue to grow and they begin interfering with your ability to work, concentrate, sleep, and take basic care of yourself, it’s important to talk to a professional that can help.