How to manage your anxiety during the coronavirus

Feelings of anxiety and uncertainly often accompany unknown situations. However, the unique experience of dealing with a pandemic may amplify feelings of anxiety as there is very little, if any, prior experience we can draw on to help us cope with anxiety and stress.

As a parent and partner, there is the additional challenge of dealing not only with your own anxiety but also your children and that of your partner. This situation is further exacerbated when everyone is housebound, with little room to escape. Nevertheless, there are a couple of things you can do to deal with the anxiety that this pandemic and lockdown brings.

1. It’s okay, I feel it too

What we need to be mindful of is that it is completely normal to be experiencing heightened amounts of anxiety and fear. Sometimes, this can even manifest as frustration and anger. It is important at this stage to keep track of what you are feeling and to try and muster just that extra level of patience and gentleness with yourself and loved ones in these unusual circumstances.

Share your feelings as you go along. Being constrained in close proximity with your family for extended periods may mean that you can’t always get the time and space away to process things on our own. This makes it even more important to share your feelings with your partner or even a friend.

Anxious couple sitting on couch holding hands

2. What if we get it?

This question is likely to be on everyone’s mind. The experience of pandemics in the modern world leaves us perplexed at times. On the one hand, we are pushing the boundaries of modern science and technology, and on the other, it feels like the world has come to a halt by something we can’t even see. This tension can sometimes leave us feeling powerless and helpless.

Knowing that you are vulnerable to a lethal virus also brings some of our greatest fears for our lives and our loved ones to the fore. We are suddenly confronted with the fact that we are not invincible, as we come face to face with our own mortality. Once again, being open and transparent about these fears to your partner, friend or therapist may help lessen the anxiety.

This is also a good time to remind yourself of all that you are doing to keep yourselves healthy. Equally important is for you to check in with your partner and children too, as they may be preoccupied with similar thoughts.

3. Find a new normal at home

During times of uncertainty, you may find that you and your family can still thrive if your home is running as smoothly and as normally as possible. Having a routine can help keep some of the fears and anxiety at bay, and restore calm and peace.

We know that there are many unknowns and uncertainties that pandemics bring, but there are some things in our life that we can be sure of.  Take solace in the things that you do know for sure. For instance, you know that your home is running as smoothly as possible under difficult circumstances; you know that you are taking as much extra care of your health as possible, and you know that you still keep in touch with loved ones even if you are not physically seeing them.

Paper with the word disconnect and scissors

4. Disconnect and Reconnect

While it is important to stay abreast with what is happening nationally and globally regarding the pandemic, limit your family’s media exposure. We are constantly bombarded with messages on social media, broadcast news and even push notifications of the latest death rates, infection rates, negative economic consequences and other COVID-related crises.

Many children have also been exposed to countless frightening visuals of gigantic viral molecules on their screens at home and have been hearing words like “disaster”, “corona”, “pandemic”, “lockdown” and “quarantine” for the very first time. These circumstances and stimuli are bound to lead to feelings of worry, fear and uncertainty for them.

Ongoing exposure can also be tantamount to continuous trauma, which may activate a stress response for both yourself and your children. Instead, use your screens and social media accounts to reconnect and stay connected with the loved ones who are not in your home, and who you have been unable to see due to the lockdown.

“Being constrained in close proximity with your family for extended periods may mean that you can’t always get the time and space away to process things on our own. This makes it even more important to share your feelings with your partner or even a friend.”

COVID-19 has impacted all of us in some or other way. Feelings of stress and anxiety are running high for everyone. Most of us are navigating unknown territory and we find ourselves living somewhere between hope and fear, for ourselves, our loved ones and our livelihoods. If the stress and anxiety become too much to bear, don’t hesitate making contact with a psychologist. There are many who are consulting online during the lockdown.

This nanoscopic entity has brought the globe to a standstill, yet it has uncannily also presented us with an opportunity to stop running, stop chasing, stop moving and just be. Be with our bodies, be with our minds, be with our souls, be in our beds, be at our tables having face-to-face time, playtime, me-time, creative time, spiritual time, and – importantly – give time to our loved ones.

We are all living in a moment that is history in the making, and along with untold levels of anxiety and fear, there is also hope and human resilience. It is this that has always triumphed through time.

Dr Sumayya ebrahim babyyumyum expert
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