(As featured in Northshore Mums – http://www.northshoremums.com.au/coronavirus-anxiety/)
Coronavirus anxiety is something many of us are facing, in different ways. Perhaps you’re worried about your parents, or the risk to a vulnerable loved one. Maybe you’re not coping with the demands of home-schooling, or perhaps the changes in our lives have left you feeling more stressed. With so much uncertainty to manage, it can be helpful to explore strategies to help, writes Psychotherapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist Brigitte Tong.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much about our lives. Just the other day I was in a public place and started coughing (into my elbow) after swallowing the wrong way. Immediately, I found myself cringing as people glanced at me with suspicion. And who would have thought, a few months ago, toilet paper would be a valuable commodity? Add to this the worrying reports about people panic-buying and images of the long lines outside Centrelink, and the sense of panic becomes palpable, increasing until you are gripped by coronavirus anxiety.
You’re not alone if you feel overwhelmed or worried about what the future might look like. But, in the midst of all this, what can we do? Here are some ways to manage your mindset throughout the pandemic that may help reduce your coronavirus anxiety.
1. Control the things you can control
The first step toward managing coronavirus anxiety is to identify what you can control in your life. The virus is now a fact of life, and you can’t wind back the clock and somehow stop its arrival.
Focus on practical action: Instead of focusing on what might have been, look toward what you can learn, and concrete actions you can take. For example:
– Keep up to date on hygiene advice and practice hand washing, social distancing and stay home to help manage concerns about catching the virus
– If your concern is cashflow, empower yourself by researching what assistance may be available to you
2. Distinguish between the ‘known’ and ‘the unknown’
People often struggle dealing with uncertainty, and right now we’re not sure about may happen in the next few weeks, months or even years. Feelings of coronavirus anxiety go hand-in-had with our fear of the unknown.
Don’t get caught up in the unknown: Keeping up to date with coronavirus news is important, but information overload could fuel anxiety and lead to burnout or hyper-focusing on the what-ifs about every situation. Repeatedly watching and hearing the same news over and over again does not help, but only builds anxiety, leaving you worried about multiple possible futures. Before you get to that point, set healthy boundaries around when and where you consume news, for example:
– Limiting time spent, or choosing just one platform instead of accessing radio, TV AND online news
– Ensuring you are balancing your consumption with other activities, like listening to an unrelated podcast, taking a walk, or whatever eases your mind
Focus on what you do know: When there’s so much we don’t know, it’s easy to lose sight of how much we do know for certain. Make a list of facts that will remind you how much progress has been made in coronavirus research, and add to it as you uncover new positive or useful facts, for example:
– The federal and state governments are taking fast, considered actions for our safety
– The Australian coronavirus response has been effective in flattening the curve, limiting cases and our hospitals remain accessible and operational
3. Introduce yourself to ‘Now Time’
Our normal schedules have been upended, so now’s the time to introduce rituals into your new routine to give yourself structure, and a sense of routine. My suggestion is dedicate some time for daily ‘Now Time.’ What do I mean by that?
‘Now Time’ is a more user-friendly way to suggest you spend time focusing on yourself, finding some stillness in your day, and mediating
I call it ‘Now Time’ because people think of meditation as hard, disciplined sessions sitting, and trying to control thoughts
‘Now Time’ is simpler, and you probably already do it when you forget your thoughts and anxieties while you’re absorbed in a good book or movie!
How ‘Now Time’ works:
Take a break: This might simply mean pausing for one minute at a time at different moments throughout the day.
Use your ears: Hearing helps us focus and calm, so wherever you are, (safely) stop and focus on what you can hear around you for one minute.
Let go of your thoughts: You will most likely be thinking, but don’t try to fight your thoughts, just keep listening for sounds with a light-hearted curiosity.
Continue to listen: Just noticing the different sounds that come and go, and noticing your awareness of them.
It’s amazing what you can hear that you would normally miss. As I sit at my desk right now, I can hear the sounds of the kookaburras and cockatoos in the distance; I can hear a fly that flew in through the open door buzzing at my ear; I can hear the whirring of the computer.
Coronavirus anxiety: Moving forward
There is a saying from the Upanishads saying, ‘When a blade of grass is cut, the whole universe quivers’. In the midst of this public health crisis, when an incident in one country has made the whole world shudder, it seems the saying is more relevant than ever. But while difficult, another perspective might be that in a strange way, the global coronavirus pandemic has the potential to unite a frequently divided world. It has given people the chance to reassess what is important to them and the community, such as collective health, our loved ones and the welfare of our wider community.
Brigitte Tong is a clinical psychotherapist and hypnotherapist with a passion for helping people overcome their issues to achieve their highest potential. You can contact her here for more professional help or guidance, or phone her on 0490 416 330.