Since the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak became a global concern, the world has experienced a whirlwind of unexpected events and emotions. In every direction I turn to, I get a heartbreaking report about the spread of the virus. I hear about new cases of infected patients, the troubling death rates, and the scarcity of healthcare resources to manage patients.
As if the COVID-19 statistics aren’t bad enough, I also hear about the impact of this pandemic on businesses and their workers. Employers are in panic mode and making difficult decisions. Millions of workers have been laid off, furloughed, given pay cuts, or made redundant. As a result, several households are under some form of financial stress since their sources of income have been eliminated.
This sharp turn of events has caused me a lot of anxiety and made me fully understand what it means to live in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world. Many of my plans are in limbo, and I’m learning to take each day as it comes.
Living through this kind of uncertainty is quite unusual and challenging, mainly because there isn’t a foreseeable end date to this crisis. I am observing the stay-at-home order and faced with the reality of feeling stuck. I can’t sleep or eat well. On some days, I go for a decent meal while on other days, I barely eat and find myself taking beverages and snacks. On some nights, I pace about my house worrying about my family’s safety.
Dealing with anxiety is tough, especially during a time like this. However, I’m doing my best to manage my anxiety and make each day count. Here’s what you can do to manage anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Limit the information you consume. You can stay informed without consuming every piece of information about COVID-19. Some news reports are quite repetitive and incite fear in readers. Also, it doesn’t help that there is a lot of false news circulating on social media. So, it’s important to limit the information you consume to credible sources like the World Health Organization. You may also choose to dedicate a few minutes (or hours, depending on how you feel) to checking the news.
- Practice cognitive reframing. Cognitive reframing is the practice of shifting how you view certain unpleasant situations. For example, the stay-at-home order initially caused me to feel stuck in my home. A friend advised me to look at this lockdown period as a time to focus on myself and take a break from everything that once caused me stress. Shifting my mindset has helped me a lot and given me a more positive outlook on life while being locked down.
- Prepare a daily plan. While you are at home, it is always helpful to create a plan of activities that you hope to accomplish during the day. These activities can be work-related or personal. Apart from the work-related items (if you are working from home), you can also include simple activities like buying groceries, cooking, doing laundry, or tidying your space. A daily plan helps you to stay focused on what you need to do and, if followed, gives a great feeling of accomplishment at the end of each day.
- Maintain a healthy mind and body. While at home, it’s easy to fall into unhealthy behaviors such as binge eating and lying on one spot for long periods. It’s essential to maintain an active lifestyle within your home because it contributes to improving your mood and overall mental health. Other activities that have kept me in a positive state of mind include meditating, journaling, reading books, organizing my space, watching movies or YouTube tutorials, and taking online courses. Lastly, it’s necessary to stay healthy by observing all the COVID-19 protective measures.
- Connect with people. If there’s one thing that this COVID-19 crisis has emphasized, it’s the need to pause, reflect, and connect with people. We have been busy pursuing work and money, that we haven’t given much attention to checking on people. Now, with more time on our hands, we can connect with family and friends. In the past weeks, I’ve had some very lengthy and interesting conversations with some of the busiest people I know. I value those moments so much, and I find it very comforting to finally catch up with them. So, look around and find ways to connect with people—despite the distance.
P.S. I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy. Sending positive thoughts your way!
~ This article is also posted on the SHRM Blog.