On March 11, the World Health Organization officially labeled the worldwide coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic. To date, the virus has swept into over 114 countries with more than 128,000 reported cases. Due to its rampant nature, experts predict that the number of cases will drastically rise in the coming weeks and months.
While the coronavirus isn’t new, this particular strain is novel, as the first case was reported in Wuhan, China on December 31, 2019. This week, the panic and fear has sunk into American soil. Schools are shutting down, restaurants are closed, events are being canceled, and we’ve officially entered a bear market after eleven years of incredible financial gains.
With all that in mind, there’s a strong chance you’re feeling anxious about the coronavirus. This anxiety is normal, but it doesn’t need to evolve into complete panic and helplessness. Let’s explore how you can protect yourself and your loved ones while also staying sane.
Control the Controllables
When you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed, the best thing you can do is take an inventory of the things within your control, and those without. Taking action on the things you can control will provide you with a sense of purpose and help you “do” something with all that worry. When it comes to the coronavirus, you can control a few areas:
While guidelines are changing every day, the fixed precautions include:
Washing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds
Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% of alcohol if you are unable to wash your hands. Cover all surfaces of your hands.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue if you sneeze or cough
Maintain at least six feet of distance between yourself and anyone who may be sick
The CDC indicates that older adults and people with underlying chronic medical conditions are at a higher risk for developing coronavirus complications. If you fall into one of these categories, you may need to take special precautions to reduce your risk of exposure. Consult with your doctor for the best guidance.
Limit Your Exposure to Media
Do you want a semblance of proof that the world is ending? All you need to do is open up Facebook or turn on the nightly news.
We have the unique advantage of being able to access data from around the world with a smartphone touchscreen. However, all advantages have their drawbacks, and excessive media exposure is a real thing. Checking for updates every hour will inevitably spike your anxiety.
Be mindful of your social media consumption during this time. It’s okay to turn off the news and take a break. If you do want updates, it’s best to check the CDC, WHO, or your local department of public health first. Likewise, you can always consult with your doctor.
With the extra time you created by staying from the media stream, take a walk outside, finish projects around the house, read a book or do some exercise at home.
With many people working from home or choosing to otherwise limit social exposure, the isolation can feel overwhelming. We humans are social creatures, and we do need social interaction to feel engaged and mentally healthy.
Fortunately, we’re in a time where connection is easier than ever. Schedule FaceTime dates with loved ones. Open up a group chat with your best friends. Take this time to relish in those long phone calls with extended relatives. Plan a lovely stay-at-home date night with your spouse.
Keep Yourself Physically Healthy
Yes, you might be indoors more than usual, but that doesn’t mean you can’t optimize your health. Focus on eating a healthy and rounded diet. Drink plenty of water. Pull out your yoga mat and stretch for a few minutes each morning. Look up at-home workouts on YouTube.
Experts have concerns that the coronavirus could have implications on our healthcare system. While you can’t control all the variables attributing to your health, it’s a good strategy to make sure you’re keeping your immune system strong.
And if you are feeling sick, rest. Make sure that you’re getting plenty of fluids. If you do have concerns about the virus, experts advise that you contact your hospital before admitting.
Roll With The Punches As Best You Can
Our daily routines will likely change in coming weeks. Your kids may not be in school right now. You might be working remotely. Instead of spending weekends at the mall, you might be on the couch with Netflix.
Now is the time to create family games nights, share the cooking for a lovely meal, and listen to music together. Use the time to get closer, rather than see the time as confining.
The changes can feel scary, and they can be hard. But aim to take a flexible approach with them. We all need to be open-minded and willing to do what’s best for ourselves, our loved ones, and our society.
Take this time to focus on tasks that you may have avoided up until now. Maybe you can finish that half-completed scrapbook. Or you can commit to your spring cleaning.
Recognize That Most All Of Us Are Anxious About The Coronavirus
If you’re feeling anxious about the coronavirus, you are far from alone. At the moment, this pandemic is undoubtedly changing the way we think and behave in the world. Recognize that there are things you can control- and things you can’t. By focusing on what you can control, you will feel a greater sense of peace.
As people, we are more resilient than we tend to believe we are. Remember that you are prepared to cope with this, and you do have support. If you’re struggling with excess anxiety or panic, therapy can help.