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Dealing with Anxiety over Coronavirus Outbreak

At the time of writing, many countries of the world are taking drastic measures in order to slow down the spreading of the novel coronavirus; borders and institutions have been closed and people are urged to stay in isolation as much as possible. This subject has been brought up by almost all my clients, even those that had originally turned to me with very different issues. It is safe to say that everyone’s life is affected by the current situation to some degree.

 

There is a large group of people, however, who is especially vulnerable in crisis situations like this, even if they don’t come into contact with the virus: people suffering from anxiety disorders. Their symptoms can include heart racing, stomach discomfort, restlessness, difficulty sleeping, inability to concentrate and irritability for the most part of the day. People affected by generalized anxiety disorder, health anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder are especially easily triggered now, as the situation lends itself to excessive worrying, monitoring of physical symptoms and fear of infections, that are characteristic of these conditions.

 

If you suffer from high levels of anxiety, there are steps you can take:

  • This is an excellent time to become more aware of how your anxiety works. Examine what your automatic reaction is to this emotion; do you try get rid of it by suppressing any related thoughts? Or do you try to cope with it by imagining worst case scenarios? Do these strategies work or do you find they only maintain your anxiety?

  • You might find this uncomfortable emotion more tolerable if you give up fighting it; observe it and its symptoms without judgement. Notice when it appears, but don’t act on it by suppressing it or directing all your attention to it. This might be difficult to do at first if your automatic reaction would be very different. But it is certainly possible and the more you practice, the easier it gets. I have witnessed this process time and time again, when helping people get a grip on their anxiety.

  • Notice if there is any time when you naturally feel less anxious. Typically this will occur when our focus is on something that is unchanged by the circumstances; when connecting to loved ones, enjoying a good book or movie, or experiencing the beauty of nature. Can you do more of that activity? Can you try any new activity that you always wanted but never found the time for?

  • Is there any time when you feel especially anxious? Does reading your news feed, talking to certain people or entertaining certain ideas increase your anxiety? Could you try to eliminate or limit these activities to set times of the day?

If, after trying the above ideas, anxiety still seems to be too much to deal with, know that you can reach out to me to help you learn and practice empirically proven techniques chosen specifically for your situation. Get in contact if you are suffering or you suspect that your loved one does. With the opportunities technology offers today, there is no need to stay on your own while in physical isolation. Even a couple of online sessions can make a difference and help you gain back your emotional well-being.

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