How to Manage Your COVID-19 Anxiety

Everyone's anxiety is different and therefore the content boundaries you need to set for keeping up with the latest COVID-19 news might look different from what other people are doing. Some of us might need to disconnect from the newsreel completely, while others might only need to cut down on how many update posts they read. 

Next time you come across a coronavirus-related article or tweet, do a mental check-in. Did interacting with that piece of news relax you or just make you more anxious? If you're not used to doing check-ins like this, a really good strategy is to look for the physical markers of stress. Are you clenching your jaw? Stretch out a bit to see if your body was tensing up anywhere. What about your pulse? Do you feel the beginnings of a headache coming on? By doing anxiety check-ins like this after you interact with news, you can start to figure out where exactly your comfort level is and make a plan to ensure you stay informed but don't become overwhelmed. And it is really easy to feel flooded with information in the era of fast-paced technology, so don't be ashamed if you're already at your limit and decide to fully disconnect for a while.

Hand holding remote pointed at tv screen Photo by Tolu Bamwo from Nappy

Regardless of what you've decided is going to be your media boundary, it's crucial that you let your friends and family know about it. This protective measure is helpful in not only preventing the people who care about you from accidentally contributing to your anxiety but in making sure you don't miss any updates that could be crucial to your safety. If your friends or family know that you're disconnected from the latest COVID-19 news, then they know to reach out to tell you if something really important happens. Don't be afraid to lean on your loved ones during this time where everyone is feeling some level of anxiety. Actually, by reaching out and broaching the topic of your media boundary with them you might be helping them out too by prompting them to analyze what their media boundary might be. Initiating deeper, more serious conversations with the people you love is also a great way to keep the feeling of intimacy that you might be missing in those relationships lately as a result of social distancing. In my experience, getting real and sharing how the coronavirus situation has impacted my mental health has been incredibly cathartic for both me and my friends and I'd even go so far as to call it a unique bonding experience. 

Beyond that, try to maintain as much normalcy in your life as you can. Completely losing your daily pattern can really worsen your stress levels so try to keep doing the things you know positively impact your mental health. Social distancing doesn't mean you can't go outside to feel some sun on your skin or get a breath of fresh air and if those are staples of your normal wellness routine, you should prioritize incorporating them into your current day-to-day plan. More general advice might be to try and maintain your regular schedule in terms of proportions rather than specific tasks. If you can't go to the gym anymore, set aside the same amount of time you'd usually spend there for doing physical exercises at home. Sadly, some things just aren't possible to do right now, but scheduling your day to look as similar as possible to what it normally does can stop all this change from being too jarring and hurting your mental health.