How to Cope with Anxiety from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Follow the news—but take breaks from it.

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If the COVID-19 pandemic has you feeling a spike in anxiety, you’re not alone. It’s too soon to have hard numbers on how COVID-19 is affecting mental health, but you probably don’t need the math to prove that you and your loved ones are feeling more on edge than usual.

Even if you and nobody you know has been infected by COVID-19, you’ve probably been affected. Your kids might be staying home from school, you might be working from home or even without work, and you might be worried about the health and safety of your loved ones. 

“It’s normal at this time to feel maybe a little anxious about what’s going on with the coronavirus, but there are steps that you can take to help with the anxiety,” says Preeti Parikh, MD, pediatrician at The Mount Sinai Hospital and Chief Medical Officer at HealthiNation.

One big thing is to know your personal risk factors for COVID-19. “If you are in the high-risk group, talk to your doctor and make a plan of ways to help prevent you from getting the illness,” says Dr. Parikh. Those who are at a higher risk of experiencing severe and potentially life-threatening symptoms include:

  • Older adults

  • People with chronic conditions, such as heart problems, lung problems, and diabetes

  • And people who are immunocompromised.

If you’re in a high-risk group, making a plan and being cautious can help you feel more in control and less anxious. “You should have a healthcare provider who you can call on in case you do get symptoms to make sure you have a game plan in place,” says Dr. Parikh. Here are tips for at-risk individuals to prevent COVID-19.

“If you’re not in the high risk group, reassure yourself. Look at the facts that most people are not getting seriously ill from the coronavirus. The data has shown that 80 percent of cases worldwide have shown milder symptoms,” says Dr. Parikh. For example, your kids will likely be just fine.

(That said, it’s incredibly important to follow guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, even if you’re not in a high-risk group.) 

Additionally, don’t get too wrapped up in following the news. “Although you need to know what the CDC and your local government is recommending … you don’t need a minute-to-minute update, so give yourself a break: take a break from your phone, from social media, from the news,” says Dr. Parikh.

Finally, follow your usual self-care routines, such as eating healthy and well-balanced meals, trying meditation and breathing exercises, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising regularly (if you’re isolating at home, try online workout routines or do some stretching).

Need more stress relief tips?