With more than 1.4 billion search results, COVID-19 seems to be all the world is talking about. The latest coronavirus strain has made international news in the last few weeks and will continue to do so as governments and citizens work to contain the spread. Every day, there’s a new headline about how to stay prepared, who’s been quarantined, and what to expect. But the constant stream of news provided by 24-hour TV news and social media streams might do more harm than good.
If you’ve found yourself feeling anxious or uncomfortably stressed about the virus, you’re not alone. Mental health professionals are seeing an uptick in anxiety due to the coverage of the virus, and they expect the cases to increase. Others are encouraging those suffering with anxiety to remember that “panic sells, calm saves.”
But how, in the face of never-ending coronavirus content, can you stay calm? Here are a few tips to help you manage.
1. Know your facts
Instead of scrolling through social media for your information, pick one or two reliable news sources to check for updates, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, or the BBC, and only check them once a day. Mute topics related to COVID-19 on Twitter, and if the virus keeps popping up in other feeds, try to keep your social media use limited.
Keeping a consistent meditation practice helps us to see scary thoughts for what they are: just thoughts. In the Tools section of Sanvello, you’ll find we have many meditations for different types of stress. A meditation practice can help us manage our thoughts before they become anxiety spirals.
3. Track and unpack your thoughts
There’s a difference between being scared and prepared. Handle what’s in your control and learn to recognize what’s not. Notice if you’re catastrophizing, fortune telling, or other thinking traps, and keep tabs on them in the Thoughts section of the app.
4. Be prepared within reason
It doesn’t hurt to have good habits in place. Wash your hands regularly, avoid touching your face, and for when soap and water aren’t available, carry hand sanitizer. There’s no need to buy gallons of Purell or lock yourself in your room. Just being responsible regarding touch and cleanliness is the most considerate thing you can do.
5. Plan for what you can
Whether it’s school, work, travel, or something else, it’s good to think through your plan. Is your university taking precautions? Does your job have a work-from-home plan? If you’re traveling, what steps is your airline taking to prioritize health? Raising these concerns and researching them can help you know what to expect, and knowing what to expect can help set us at ease.
It’s also a time to be compassionate – to yourself and others. As we grapple with closings, cancellations, and social distancing, some things may look and feel a little different for people. Kids and pets will appear on video conferences. Dinner tonight may just be what’s in the cupboard. Someone you were hoping to see may need to care for a family member. Being flexible and understanding will help ease the anxiety of others.
6. Be good to your body
If you’re feeling stressed, the best thing you can do is treat your body right. Drink water, get enough rest, spend time in nature, eat healthy, and engage in activities that help reduce stress like walking or talking with a friend.
If you’re not sure how the news around COVID-19 is affecting you, start by tracking your baseline, and get your stress and anxiety scores from the Sanvello weekly assessments. These assessments can help put your current state in perspective and better understand how it’s affecting you.
There will always be news cycles that cause us stress, but how we interact with them and how we react to them are within our control. Sanvello’s Tools and the Sanvello community are available whenever you need them.
By Monika Roots
Chief Medical Officer, Sanvello
Dr. Roots practiced as a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist. She was also a Clinical Adjunct Assistant Professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison and was most recently the Vice President of Health Services and Behavioral Health for Teladoc Health. In 2016, Teladoc Health acquired her business, CogCubed, a behavioral health analytics company. Dr. Roots earned her MD from University of Sint Eustatius School of Medicine and completed psychiatry residency and fellowship in child/adolescent psychiatry at the University of Minnesota.