Lowering your anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic

Introduction

We are all experiencing a variety of negative emotions during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown situation. Some of these emotions and responses include fear, uncertainty, excessive worrying and states of depression (with symptoms such as helplessness, hopelessness, despondency, sadness and melancholy). Many of these symptoms manifest as anxiety. A severe degree of anxiety leads to panic attacks (acute intense moments of panic, fast heartbeat, dizziness, sweating, shortness of breath, pins and needles, nausea and muscle contractions). Anxiety can be seen as the most prevalent and debilitating emotional response during this time. Here are some practical tips as well as psychological tips on how to bring your anxiety levels down.

Practical tips to lower your anxiety levels

You have probably already seen many sites and articles giving practical tips on how to minimise your anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic and global lockdown, in some cases these tips can be useful. Here are some practical tips that you can follow to avoid feeling anxiety or to lower your existing anxiety levels.

  1. Avoid media that contains inaccurate or frightening information about the disease.

  2. Stick to a routine during the lockdown.

  3. Time manage – set a specific time for specific activities – such as – a specific time to get up, shower, have breakfast, work, relax, read, cook, clean, exercise, watch movies or YouTube, be creative, contact loved ones and friends and go to sleep. Stick to these specific times for different activities. As much as you need a specific time to get up in the morning when you go to work, you also need a specific time to lie on the couch and just relax. You need to stick to these times because relaxing while you are supposed to be working, will lead to guilt and working while you feel like you want to relax, leads to unproductivity. Neither is done properly when it’s not done at the right time. Time management is the same as giving your brain permission to do a specific activity properly and only focus on that.

  4. Distract yourself from dwelling on worrying thoughts by watching captivating movies or funny YouTube clips.

  5. Try not to interact too much with friends or family members who are always complaining and negative. You have the right to minimise contact with people who make you feel down.

  6. Be charitable. Helping others can ease feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. However, we need boundaries when helping others. Charity should never cross over to your personal space, as this could wreak havoc on your emotional wellbeing and your positivity. Think of this; there is a difference between helping someone find a place to live and inviting them to move in with you.

In conclusion, set up a time management schedule which includes a time to relax, a time to be productive and a time to do whatever you enjoy. Stick to your plan. You might not be in the mood for exercise, but just do it when it’s the time. Do it automatically, even if you would rather do something else. You will feel like a winner for accomplishing this. Distract yourself and try to stay away from negative people.

Psychological tips to lower your anxiety levels

The reality is that you could do all the things mentioned above and still feel high levels of anxiety. You might lack the motivation to pull through on any time management structure. It may be difficult to create a plan because the future is too uncertain. It might feel like everything is confusing, upside down, scary and surreal.

The reality is that following a routine and exercising etc., will not eliminate all the scary realities that you are facing. You be faced with job loss, reduced income or a loved one might be at risk of getting ill when infected with the virus. This perception is realistic, as there is a genuine possibility that self-disciplined activities such as time management will not eliminate those fears and worries. It could assist in giving structure, but it might not change the intensity of the worry and fear.

It is important to understand that your worries and fears are appropriate to the context. A pandemic is a global state which inevitably leads to context specific fear and anxiety. Although most of us would love to be blissfully ignorant during this pandemic, the reality is that most of us have the ability to forecast and follow logical deduction which enables us to foresee possible difficult situations. You might also have realistic fears and worries which cause you to grapple with anxiety and even panic attacks. The main question then is, “What can be done about your anxiety which is caused by appropriate and realistic fear and worry during the pandemic?”.

Create a worry time -As much as possible you should avoid entertaining constant fearful thoughts and worries, however you still need to allow these worries some ‘airtime’ in order to confront them head on.