Coronavirus: how to stay positive and not let anxiety get the best of you
With all the news about the coronavirus outbreak, it’s only natural to worry about our well-being and safety, and that of our loved ones. In many countries around the world, people are living in fear, not knowing where the virus will show up next or how long it will continue to dictate our movements.
From factory closures to grounded flights, there is also concern about the mounting economic fallout from the outbreak. Are our jobs safe? Will the economy collapse? Will businesses thrive again once the virus has run its course?
The anxiety is real – we only have to read about mask hoarders and the
to understand the fear and sense of helplessness that many of us feel. So, in such an unpredictable and frightening time, how do we keep ourselves on an even emotional keel?
“The first thing to do is acknowledge the fear, anxiety, panic and worry that you may be experiencing,” says Paul Krismer, founder of the Happiness Experts Company in Canada, and author of Whole Person Happiness: How to be Well in Body, Mind and Spirit. “
, so allow yourself to feel whatever you are experiencing instead of pushing them away.”
At the same time, Krismer advises not to wallow in that negative emotional space for too long.
“You also have to take a rational perspective to this very real and complex issue and ask yourself some important questions, such as: ‘How much is Covid-19 interfering in my life, what precautions can I take and how can I manage the uneasiness I have been feeling?’ You will find that once you’ve taken a more practical approach to the problem, the worries and fears will feel far less overwhelming.”
Worrying also tends to transport us into the future, but the future is almost always beyond our control.
“It is also important to be here, in the present and in the ‘now’,” says Krismer. “Many of us have this constant stream of chatter flowing in our heads that’s telling us what to think about or worry about. But we have to remember that is not our current reality. At this current moment, most us are healthy; our loved ones are well, and life is fine. So, be grateful for the things that are going well in your life right now and focus on the present – it is a powerful antidote to worrying about the future, or indeed the past.”
Psychiatrist Dr Lim Boon Leng, from Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness in Singapore, agrees that it is easy to let our hearts rule our brains in periods of crisis. He stresses the need to be aware of
and unrealistic fearful thoughts – and to make a conscious effort not to indulge them or obsess over them.
Krismer says that
, too. If you cannot be with them personally, video chat with them.
To help manage any feelings of uneasiness, Lim, who is an expert in anxiety disorders, suggests maintaining a normal daily routine and minimising any disruptions to your life as much as possible. You must also continue to be purposeful and enjoy your free time. “It may be a difficult time for everyone but it’s still important to maintain a sense of normalcy,” he adds.
You should also
, says Lim. “If you must know what’s going on, allow yourself to watch or read the news once or twice a day at the most. Give your brain time to rest and avoid overthinking what you have watched or read. Watch other shows besides the news and talk to people about other topics.”
Lim warns against letting your thoughts run wild when you come across bad news and imagining the worst or blowing the information out of proportion. Keep in mind that a lot of the reports we see on social media are also misleading or just plain untrue or unsubstantiated.
And finally, it’s not enough to manage your thoughts and behaviours if you neglect your physical well-being, says Krismer.
, eating a well-balanced diet, getting sufficient sleep and making time for self-care don’t just
and keep your body functioning optimally; these habits also help you feel better. And when you feel good, strong and healthy, you’ll find that you’re better able to cope with whatever is taking place around you.”