by Charli Rousseau
Few things stir up anxiety faster than an illness, let alone the global spread of a life-threatening new virus. It’s completely normal to feel overwhelming anxiety at a time like this. Anxiety is often a reaction to change, and our reality is changing daily. Your work, family or financial dynamic may have changed recently. As you learn new information about your community and the communities of others worldwide, it can be hard to know what to believe, or what you should do. This uncertainty can also stir up anxiety.
What Anxiety Feels Like
Anxiety is a normal response to stress, but there are times when it can feel overwhelming. Telltale signs of anxiety include:
- Excessive worrying — If it interferes with your daily functions and you are unable to concentrate, it’s probably excessive.
- Nervous energy — Is your heart rate up? Are you feeling clammy or shaky? Can’t sit still? Anxiety happens when your brain thinks you are in danger.
- Trouble sleeping or concentrating — Lying awake at night with your thoughts racing is a hallmark of anxiety. Zoning out during the day is also common.
- Irritability — If you find yourself becoming easily irritated, complaining a lot or snapping at people (perhaps they are telling you this), you may have anxiety.
- General fatigue — Some people respond to anxiety by shutting down or feeling paralyzed and unable to do anything.
- Muscle tension — From grinding your teeth to noticing muscle pains, tension can signal anxiety.
How to Manage Anxiety
When you feel anxiety, it is important to focus on what is within your control. Focusing on what is beyond your control (aka most things) will compound anxiety and make you feel worse. Specifically, focus on one thing you can do now. Call a loved one. Ask how they’re doing. Exercise. Nourish yourself. Laugh.
You may find you have more time on your hands now. Use this time to slow down. Try to separate your thoughts. If you find that you are overwhelmed with new responsibilities, make yourself a schedule. Ask for help. Set yourself one daily goal instead of a whole list of to-dos. Take things day by day. Expect that not everything will go as planned. Be flexible and adapt.
One of the best things you can do is write down your thoughts instead of turning them over in your head. This is especially handy if you are unable to talk to someone in person. The goal is to get your thoughts outside of your body. This way, they have less power over you. Acknowledge how you feel and why.
Remember: The coronavirus’s behavior is beyond your control. Your behavior is within your control. Ask yourself: what is one thing you can do today?