It is a very tense time. From watching the news to perusing social media or just strolling through the ghost towns that now make up America because of the Coronavirus outbreak. Plus, you don’t have the distraction of living your normal life. Most people are confined to their homes to work and are being encouraged to stay inside. In other words, you have nothing to do but focus on information which in turn is contributing to your anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle.
“All of our attention is being focused on the threatening aspects of the situation,” says Ethan Kross, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, where he runs a lab studying emotion and self-control “We’re zoomed in on the potential threat.”
What is also contributing to our anxiety is that truly have no control over the situation. We aren’t getting any real clear answers on when this will all be over. Timelines are blurred and though we have some experts making some accurate predictions, none of them can make a precise calculation.
Take a walk
So what can you do? In addition to following the CDC’s orders of washing your hands frequently and trying to not touch your face, give yourself some mental health boosts.
Dr. Luana Marques, a clinical psychologist and professor at Harvard Medical School, said on the podcast, “Ten percent happier with Dan Harris,” “I recommend [for those facing extra anxiety], run outside. Or [be careful at] the gym, but any kind of exercise. I mean, a brisk walk. It’s something that any of us can do. Be creative. Do jumping jacks at home.… Exercise brings down anxiety and does it fast.”
Cut back on the coffee
Yes, we love our coffee but this not the time to be a jumpy, super alert person. Your anxiety levels are already super high and chugging coffee like you normally do is just going to accelerate them. “Good sleep … hygiene, turning off the phones, turning off the news at a reasonable time, and decreasing [things like] caffeine, chocolate, anything that activates you,” said Dr. Marques on the podcast. “If you can’t sleep, get out of bed, because sitting there and worrying guarantees you won’t sleep.”
Anu Asnaani, a clinical psychologist at the University of Utah, says do what would you usually do when you have high anxiety. “When you’re feeling kind of overwhelmed, it’s a lot easier to use a coping strategy you’ve practiced a lot then to come up with a new one,” she said. Do some chores around the house (since you’re home!), watch an instructional video for that DIY project you’ve been meaning to do for four years, reorganize your entire kitchen, etc.,
Also remember that having high anxiety right now is very normal. “So, I think the first thing we all need to remember is anxiety is appropriate right now,” Marques said on the podcast. “So the idea that anxiety has an inverse relationship with performance…Up to a point, the more anxious you get, the more performance you have. There is a point, a tilting point, though, that too much anxiety affects anything that we’re doing. So we can’t think critically. We get stuck. We start to get more anxious.”