Coping with anxiety amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Tips on how to handle life during the coronavirus pandemic.

Everyday life largely has come to a halt as social distancing has been urged to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

This disruption, compounded by anxiety over health risks and the rapidly evolving circumstances of the pandemic, increases many people’s feelings of powerlessness and dread.

Having a plan to cope with these stressors, however, can help by giving a sense of control over fears of the unknown, according to John J. Wernert, M.D., MHA, executive medical director of Norton Behavioral Medicine.

“You will most likely experience a disruption of your weekly schedule and social activities, but this is temporary,” Dr. Wernert said. “Don’t look at these necessary inconveniences as a catastrophe, but as an opportunity.”

He advises people take these steps to cope with worry brought on by the pandemic:

  • Use the unplanned time at home to complete tasks you have been putting off. Stay busy and keep your mind active.
  • Get more sleep and regular exercise.
  • Limit time watching the news and checking social media.
  • Minimize caffeine and alcohol use.
  • Eat fewer carbs and smaller meals to help bowel problems; this can help you feel calmer.
  • Don’t interpret social distancing as isolation. Rather, use this alone time to practice meditation, prayer, deep breathing and relaxation techniques.

Focus on keeping you and your loved ones safe and have an action plan in the event you contract COVID-19, according to Dr. Wernert.

Despite the need for social isolation, it’s important to emotionally connect with others and express feelings of anxiety, according to the Rev. Kelley Woggon, M.Div., director, pastoral care department, Norton Healthcare.

“During this time, it’s crucial that we encourage one another, are conscious of those in our neighborhoods whose health is vulnerable and make sure they’re cared for, and do our part to intentionally spread a sense of calmness and kindness,” Kelley said.

Chaplains are available at Norton Healthcare hospitals to provide emotional and spiritual support to patients, guests and employees, regardless of faith or beliefs.

If anxiety interferes with you performing daily functions or activities, it may be time to seek professional help. Share how you are feeling with your primary medical provider.

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