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The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is officially a global pandemic, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) finally declaring it in early March. In fact, the disease has affected close to 192 countries and territories, with over 3.5 million cases being reported. As a response to this, public health experts and government officials are suggesting necessary steps to prevent the transmission of the disease.
COVID-19 is a new virus strain that originated in Wuhan, China that causes illnesses in the respiratory tract. The symptoms, which may include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, may take around two days to two weeks to appear.
Coronavirus is resulting in a lot of anxiety and panic among the people as new information or fresh updates of confirmed cases and casualties are coming up every day. A lot of uncertainty about several aspects of the virus is also causing a great deal of panic and worry among the generic public.
While it’s definitely a traumatic period for global population health, it’s an even more pressing time for individual mental health. People are being asked to wash their hands multiple times, avoid close contact with people who may be affected, and be careful about touching foreign surfaces.
Although these seem easy enough instructions, however, they have the potential to be triggering for people with anxiety-inducing disorders. The news of a virus spreading across the globe and precautions needed to protect yourself from it can induce a lot of anxious thoughts and compulsive behaviour every day.
The constant spread of information all around can invoke triggering feelings such as dizziness, breathlessness, and chest pains. The uncertainty surrounding the outbreak of a global pandemic can cause a lot of anxiety.
It can make you feel vexed about what will happen if you get it or what precautions you can take to prevent it. These feelings can very easily overwhelm you and create a whirlpool of dread and panic. There are several ways you can deal with the anxious feelings that Coronavirus can trigger in you:
Single out the reason for the trigger
One of the ways of dealing with the disease, as mentioned everywhere, is keeping yourself clean by, for example, washing your hands. When this comes in the form of serious advice, then people with mental illnesses are forced to ponder on these behaviours more, turning it into anxious behaviour.
In this case, the focus shifts from the actual acts of cleanliness to debilitating thoughts on the reasons behind them.
Moreover, mention of a certain number of times your hands should be washed can be the reason for more distress for these people. For example, it may be easy for a person with anxiety to misinterpret the word “frequently” into believing he/she/they may need to wash his/her/their hands every hour.
So this sort of focus on viruses and cleanliness can bring out anxious thoughts in these people. The key is not to let these thoughts trickle into anxious behaviour and follow a specific cause and action thought process.
Try to let go of the things you can’t control
In this period of immense crisis, it’s easy to let things spiral out of control. There are several things about a global pandemic that’s out of your control such as how much the pandemic can spread and how other people react to it.
These uncertain aspects can easily unnerve us enough to spend many anxious hours searching the internet for hours for answers and contemplating various scenarios that can arise.
If you focus on the unanswerable questions, then it can leave you drained out. It’s important to let go of the things you can’t control and instead focus on the precautions you can take to protect yourself. Some of the things you can, for example, are washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or with a sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol or avoiding crowds.
Stop tuning in 24X7
Everyone on social media is talking about the Coronavirus. It’s impossible to miss any update. This can lead to fatigue due to constant exposure to this worrying information. Having said that, it’s important to remain informed but not obsessively follow every piece of news that erupts. You shouldn’t try to be on a news-hunting mode to know everything there is to know about the virus.
You can limit getting news updates to certain times of the day. You should also make provisions to step away from social media or news channels when you feel overwhelmed. You should also stick to only trustworthy sources for news to avoid unwanted anxiety. If you want, you can also entrust someone reliable with providing you with regular updates.
Be kind to yourself
This period can be extremely trying if you suffer from anxiety. This is when you can follow a strict self-care regime such as eating proper meals, getting ample sleep and practising mindfulness.
Some other tips you can follow are not to be too harsh on yourself, follow a strict routine, keep some time out for leisure, avoid self-medicating, practise some relaxation techniques and allocate some hours for exercise.
If you have anxiety, you may require extra guarantees of safety to be assured that you haven't gotten the virus. The thought process goes like if you know something, you can control it.
However, that’s a big illusion. On the contrary, you should try to accept the fact that there are several unknown things out there which aren’t possible for you to control.
In the end, it’s important that you aren’t too hard on yourself. This is an extremely difficult time for everyone, especially people with mental health issues. So it’s extremely important to be kind to yourself during this time. You can promise yourself to do the best you can and accept any mistakes you make during this period and not punish yourself for it.