Health & Wellness

Coronavirus Anxiety: 6 Tips to Support Mental Health During COVID-19

I have a hard truth to share: Just because you haven’t contracted COVID-19 doesn’t mean that you’re free from feeling its effects. How? Well, have you heard about coronavirus anxiety?

It’s a very real and very prevalent new type of anxiety impacting people all over the world. And that means that there are even more far-reaching effects of COVID-19 than we ever imagined.

But why is this happening? How does it impact your overall health? And, most importantly, what can you do about it?

Let’s take a look at what coronavirus anxiety is, discuss why it’s more common than many realize, and review some tips to help you manage any coronavirus anxiety you may be experiencing.

 

What is Coronavirus Anxiety?

Here’s the deal: Even if you don’t get COVID-19 yourself, it’s still impacting your health in ways you don’t always notice.

And the most predominant way is manifesting as something known as coronavirus anxiety.

For simplicity, coronavirus anxiety is basically an unrelenting anxiety stemming from fear of contracting COVID-19 or anxiety due to being socially isolated.

Unfortunately, the fear of catching it could be that you’ll get it yourself or that someone you love could get it and ultimately experience severe complications, and perhaps even die.

This anxiety has become so severe, in some cases, that despite the decrease in spread we’re seeing, some people are still afraid to venture out to the grocery stores or even seek necessary or urgent care for other pressing conditions or medical situations.

In fact, researchers revealed that cancer diagnoses were down almost an astounding 50 percent in 2020, compared with 2018. Now, on first glance, you may thing that’s an amazing thing. But the problem is that cancer rates don’t just magically drop. [1]

What this means is that at least half of all cancers have been going undiagnosed. Think about that for a moment. Think about the stress and anxiety of feeling something may be wrong inside your body, but you’re too afraid to go to the doctor and get examined.

And then there’s the impact of the lockdowns. While they had their role in mitigation measures, they didn’t come without their own consequences.

The truth is that anxiety due to lockdowns and the social distancing requirements hit an all-time devastating high.

In fact, take a look at some of these jaw-dropping stats for the U.S. for the year 2020, which were initially compiled by the American Institute for Economic Research: [2]

  • There were over 81,000 drug overdose deaths, the highest number ever recorded in a 12-month period.
  • During late June 2020 alone, 40 percent of American adults reported struggling with either mental health concerns or substance abuse.
  • Thoughts of suicide were almost 2.5 times higher in 2020 than in 2018.
  • Reported symptoms of anxiety were three times higher than in 2019, while depression reports were four times higher.
  • Just over 25 percent of all young adults ages 18 to 24 had contemplated committing suicide.
  • Seventy percent of Gen-Z adults reported experiencing symptoms of depression in August 2020.
  • Between April and October 2020, mental health-related emergency visits increased by 24 percent for young children and 31 percent for older children.
  • In June 2020, 13 percent of survey respondents reported starting or increasing their substance use to cope with their coronavirus anxiety.

As you can see, coronavirus anxiety has been a very real and very prevalent problem in our country.

Unfortunately, even though the numbers for the spread of COVID-19 are trending in the right direction, it’s hard for your brain and your body to just turn off that anxiety and stress.

On the flip side of that, though, there are things you can do to help manage your coronavirus anxiety—regardless of whether it’s stemming from an ongoing fear of catching it or due to isolation.

 

Coronavirus anxiety - Dr. Pingel

 

6 Tips to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety

Here are some tips to help manage coronavirus anxiety as we’re still navigating these uncertain times. [3]

1. Reframe your situation to reduce fear.

Anytime I’m overwhelmed or afraid, I remind myself that my mind and body are connected. And anything I’m thinking or feeling will impact my body, period.

During times of stress, it’s easy to let your mind wander to all the possible negative effects or outcomes. In fact, psychologists have confirmed that there are certain forms of negative thinking many of us can fall into.

One of the worst forms is known as catastrophizing. With this type of negative thinking, you expect the worst and regularly worry that the worst will happen. Sounds familiar to what many have been experiencing with coronavirus anxiety, doesn’t it?

The problem with this is that all catastrophizing does is lead to anxiety, which is exactly what you’re trying to avoid, especially considering what we now know about the link between stress and more severe COVID-19 symptoms.

The next time you encounter a stressful or worrisome situation, I want you to try to stop and ask yourself if worrying about the situation is truly worth the potential impact it will have on your brain and your overall health.

Once you decide that it isn’t, I want you to try to reframe the situation. What does that mean? Well, instead of thinking of all the negative potential outcomes, try to consider a positive impact the situation could have.

For example, instead of worrying about the worst outcomes of COVID-19, consider some of the positive effects. Perhaps you’ve had more quality time with your kids and/or partner lately, further nurturing those relationships.

Maybe you’ve been forced to cook more meals at home, cutting down on processed foods you’d normally eat in restaurants, which only supports better health. Or maybe you finally had time to watch that movie or read that book you’ve been meaning to get around to.

Reframing is something I practice on a daily basis, and it helps me stay positive and focused through times of instability. I try to remember that we create our own patterns, and the negativity is created in our own minds, not by others.

The health benefits of reframing? First, you won’t be overstimulating your amygdala and setting yourself up for even more anxiety. And second, studies have shown that simply having a positive mindset makes your brain work more efficiently! [4]

For more tips on how to reframe your thinking, click here.

2. Try yoga and meditation.

If you’re struggling with coronavirus anxiety, I want to encourage you to try two techniques that I’ve found to be incredibly effective at reducing stress and anxiety: yoga and meditation.

According to a 2018 study on 52 middle-aged women, just 12 sessions of yoga significantly decreased their levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. [5]

And in a 2011 review of 35 studies, researchers stated that regularly practicing yoga enhances muscular strength and body flexibility; promotes and even improves both respiratory and cardiovascular function.

But more relevantly to our topic, they also found it reduces stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain; promotes feelings of relaxation; improves sleep; and even enhances overall physical and mental well-being and quality of life. [6]

If you’re not familiar with yoga, click here to learn all about the nine different types of yoga and see which is best for you.

In addition to yoga, one of the best ways to remain calm and centered right now is to meditate. You can begin by trying some deep breathing exercises and then progress to mediation once you’re ready.

If you’ve never tried deep breathing exercises, click here for my top four techniques that really help me to de-stress and reduce anxiety. And, if you’re interested, you can try my three-step guide to meditating as well.

3. Focus on getting more quality rest.

Anxiety is known to impact your sleep, and that’s a problem since sleep is necessary for optimal immune function.

In fact, in a 2019 study, researchers discovered that getting quality sleep actually improves certain immune cells known to fight against viral infections, HIV, and even cancer cells. [7]

Moreover, the researchers also discovered that in people who don’t sleep well have poorer functioning immune cells due to higher stress hormones. And, as a result, are more prone to catching illnesses.

If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep due to coronavirus anxiety, start by checking out my top five home remedies for sleep.

There may be some simple tips and tricks you can use to improve your sleep quality and set yourself up for better health and less anxiety.

4. Reconnect with loved ones.

One of the best things you can do to fight coronavirus anxiety is to reconnect and remain connected with those you love. Why? Well, we know that loneliness causes anxiety and depression!

Now, if you live in a state with ongoing social distancing protocols, connecting with your loved ones can be a little tough, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

While they aren’t the same as in-person visits, consider using the technology at your fingertips to maintain those bonds via video chats.

You can also take this time to really reconnect with those in your immediate family. Try having a family game night or a special at-home date night with your significant other.

You can even plan a family movie night by browsing Netflix or renting something that’s On Demand, and then discuss it afterward.

I like to get in the kitchen with my kids and teach them about the nutrition they’re putting in their bodies. As a bonus, it creates more precious childhood memories and gives us one-on-one time.

5. Limit screen time.

I firmly believe that coronavirus anxiety is directly linked to our overreliance on screens. So, one of my biggest tips to reduce anxiety is to limit your exposure to stressful stimuli.

Right now, most of the stories you see on the news and many of the posts you see in your social media newsfeed are anxiety-producing. Frankly, a lot of it is upsetting and unnecessary—and that’s been the case since even before COVID-19 hit our shores.

Consider this: According to one survey, 86 percent of Americans said they are regularly stressed out by checking their email and social media accounts constantly—and this was before the pandemic! [8] Imagine what that survey would look like now!

And since we know how chronically heightened levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) leads to many major long-term health consequences, including lowered immunity, keeping yourself calm by restricting access to upsetting stimuli is an absolute must right now.

Need tips on how to limit your screen time? Click here for some actionable suggestions you can start implementing today!

And if you’re wondering how effective it will be, check this out: According to a 2018 study, limiting time on social media to 30 minutes a day not only reduced loneliness, depression, and anxiety but significantly improved overall wellbeing in participants! [9]

6. Focus on nutrition and hydration.

Finally, if you’re dealing with coronavirus anxiety, it’s absolutely critical to make sure you’re getting proper nutrition and hydration.

Anytime you’re under extreme stress, your adrenal glands are in overdrive and your body can’t adequately absorb the nutrients in your food. By eating a nutrient-rich diet that supports your adrenal health, you’re also supporting your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

Also, studies have shown that depleted levels of vitamin D are linked with an increased likelihood of being hospitalized with COVID-19. [10]

So if your coronavirus anxiety is stemming from a fear of severe symptoms, increasing your vitamin D intake may help to calm that fear.

For a list of the best foods you can eat to help support your adrenal health, click here.

Another one of the ways you can best support your health, which will go a long way in reducing your coronavirus anxiety, is to stay hydrated.

Hard to believe? According to a 2018 study on more than 3,300 people, those who drank the least amount of water had double the risk of anxiety and depression. [11]

Interestingly, when they increased their water consumption, their risk for depression dropped by up to 73 percent!

To learn more about how much water you should be drinking and other ways to stay hydrated, check out this article.


As you can see, if you’re suffering from coronavirus anxiety, you don’t have to just accept it. There are things you can do right now to get some relief.

By prioritizing your mental health, you’re also prioritizing your physical health.

Things are beginning to look up, so make sure you’re continuing to support your personal needs during this challenging time, so that you can emerge stronger and better than ever!

 

Key Takeaways

  • There’s a very real and very prevalent new type of anxiety impacting people all over the world. And that means that there are even more far-reaching effects of COVID-19 than we ever imagined.
  • Coronavirus anxiety is basically an unrelenting anxiety stemming from fear of contracting COVID-19 or anxiety due to being socially isolated.
  • Surveys show that anxiety due to lockdowns and the social distancing requirements hit an all-time devastating high.
  • Fortunately, there are some tips to help manage this anxiety, including: reframing your situation, trying yoga or meditation, getting quality rest, reconnecting with loved ones, limiting screen time, and focusing on nutrition and hydration.

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