How to take control of your anxiety during Covid-19

April 3, 2020

With half of the world under stay-at-home orders, most of us are coming to grips with the fact that life won’t look normal for a while. In fact, it might never look the same. Covid-19 has left us with more questions than answers, and that’s scary. 

Guy Winch, author and licensed psychologist in New York City, recently shared a column for TED offering advice for those of us who are feeling especially anxious during this time. According to Winch, the uncertainty created by Covid-19  feeds our anxiety and leaves us feeling increasingly “helpless, powerless, overwhelmed and paralyzed.” The key to managing those feelings, he says, is to take action. 

We can wash our hands and practice social distancing, of course, but we can also take practical steps to reduce our stress and anxiety. Here’s a summary of Winch’s suggestions: 

Focus on what you do know as opposed to what you don’t know.

There is no shortage of uncertainties but try to focus on the things that you do know. You don’t know if you will get the virus, but you do know that most people who do get it will have minor or manageable symptoms. 

Focus on what’s in your control as opposed to what isn’t.

Anxiety seeks to diminish feelings like control, empowerment and reason, so fight for that control. For example, when you go to the grocery store, you can’t control whether people are sick or have washed their hands. However, you can control your situation by maintaining personal space as best you can, wearing gloves or pushing a door open with your elbow. 

Focus on what you can do as opposed to what you can’t.

There are a lot of things many of us are unable to do right now, like go to the movies or sit in our favorite coffee shop. However, there is still a lot we can do. Is there a book you’ve been meaning to read or a show you’ve been meaning to watch? A friend you want to catch up with? Focus on those things.

Help yourself by helping others.

Studies have shown that kindness and helping others dramatically improves our feeling of well-being. Call to check on a friend or neighbor who might be isolated, talk to a family member who is struggling with anxiety or offer to send a meal to a nurse or an elderly neighbor. Focusing on other people will help you to focus less on your own situation and feelings of anxiety. 

Limit news consumption. 

It’s important to be informed, but constantly consuming stressful news can drain your energy and raise your anxiety levels. Winch suggests picking a time of day when you will check the news and only checking it then. Use your other time to focus on positive things in your immediate world. 

Keep your perspective. 

Keep the perspective that this situation won’t last forever. It will eventually resolve itself. We’re adjusting to a new normal, but humans are adaptable beings who will learn how to thrive in it. 

To read Winch’s insightful and timely advice in its entirety, visit the  TED website. We’ve got this. 

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