The coronavirus outbreak: How not to be anxious

By Carol Goonaratne 

You must be experiencing intense emotions of anxiety over the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Don’t overestimate the dangers or underestimate your ability to protect yourself. People of all ages are concerned about the spread and the younger generation is especially feeling anxious about it. Here are some things you can do:


Normalise anxiety

Anxiety can be healthy, but not all of us know that it can act as a useful and protective emotion. Most kids sometimes fear their heightened nerves signal. They become worried about the fact that they are worried. Being anxious, it alerts us to potential threats and helps us move towards safety. If you are feeling some anxiety due to the virus, you are having the right reaction. What is important is putting that discomfort into useful action. Learning about the virus and following the recommended guidelines is an apt way to start.


Change perspective

Anxiety is unhealthy only when it occurs in the absence of a threat. When there is nothing to be worried about at all or when worry reaches a higher proportion to the threat involved, it can trigger a panic attack. Keep worry at an appropriate level by making sure to take protective measures like washing your hands, keeping your hands away from your face, keeping distance or avoiding anyone who might be coughing or sneezing, and protecting your immune system by getting enough sleep.


Shift the spotlight

Turning your attention to supporting others is a good way to bring down levels of anxiety and panic. Providing social support heightens confidence about the ability to face challenges in our own lives. Being responsible in following protection methods not only protects you, but also helps others by minimising the risk and dangers to all and easing the strain on the medical system and the country at large.


Postponing vacation or staying home

If we’re not feeling well, postponing vacation or staying home helps reduce the chance of carrying the disease into our communities. Also, if you are stocking up on groceries unnecessarily, creating panic buying, be aware of people who cannot afford to stock food. So buy only what is needed.


Encourage distraction

When we fixate on dangers, anxiety grows, and when we turn our attention elsewhere, it shrinks. That said, it may be hard not to obsess over COVID-19, given the topic pervades headlines and social media. But compulsively checking for new updates may offer little emotional relief. Ambiguous information does nothing to reduce anxiety. Do try not to go by unreliable sources and rumours. Encourage yourself to do other things, such as homework, watching a movie, helping around the house, and so on. Modelling a level-headed response is the best way to keep anxiety from getting the best of you as you find your way through this new and uncertain challenge.