COVID-19 Anxiety Becoming Unmanageable? What to Do

For starters, don’t underestimate the power of telehealth.

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The COVID-19 pandemic may have you feeling unsettled from the upheaval of your normal life, lonely from the social distancing, scared for the health of you and your loved ones, or anxious about the future in general. If you’re feeling extra stressed, you’re certainly not alone.

“People are most likely experiencing more anxiety than they’re used to during this pandemic. It is incredibly important if you feel that your anxiety is unmanageable to reach out for help,” says Susan Samuels, MD, psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine.

You may have coping mechanisms that are helping you get through this unprecedented pandemic, but it’s okay if you don’t: This is not a normal stressor, and you shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed if you are having trouble coping. 

If the anxiety is feeling overwhelming or unmanageable, here are some ways to get help—without even leaving the safety of your home: 

1. Try telehealth

Telehealth isn’t new, but thanks to the coronavirus, it is finally being embraced for the incredible tool that it is. Telehealth, or telemedicine, is a way to get remote care from your doctor, and it may include video conferencing, email or online messaging, or health apps and devices for tracking health measurements.

“Telepsychiatry is really, really common, and can be really helpful when you can’t make it into the doctor’s office,” says Dr. Samuels. “You might actually be able to get some individualized help that can target your specific anxiety symptoms.”

If you’re not sure where to start, Dr. Samuels recommends checking the website for your local hospital or clinic. “Many of them on their websites will give directions on how to reach out to them so that you can schedule an appointment, or perhaps even in that moment, find somebody that can help you,” she says.

2. Call a hotline

You may find yourself in a more urgent situation in which you need immediate help, such as if you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

“There are always hotlines that are available for you to call to reach out for help on an urgent basis, and those still are working and still exist and are still really, really effective,” says Dr. Samuels. 

Mental health hotlines include the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Help (800-985-5990), the NAMI Helpline (800-950-6264), and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255). All three of these are available 24/7, even (and especially) during holidays and pandemics.

If you notice a loved one having a hard time coping with the stress of COVID-19, these tips may help: