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Mental Health

Feeling Anxious About Coronavirus Disease? You Aren't Alone

Published: March 12, 2020


The good news about widespread anxiety is that it fuels change quickly. Many people in communities affected by COVID-19 are being careful to limit exposure and are practicing social distancing. Anxiety fosters prevention and safeguarding behaviors, and prevention reduces anxiety. 


Physical Effects of Anxiety

In the short term, anxiety increases your breathing and heart rate, concentrating blood flow to your brain – where you need it. This very physical response is preparing you for an intense situation. With occasional stress, your body returns to normal functioning when the stress passes. 

With prolonged COVID-19 news, you may repeatedly feel anxious and stressed. When this occurs, your body doesn’t get a signal to return to normal functioning. This can weaken your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to viral infections and frequent illnesses. Anxiety’s physical effects can be counterproductive as we look at the most effective ways to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. 


When Anxiety Turns to Panic

While some anxiety helps us cope, extreme anxiety can cause panic. When we’re in a panic state, we suffer, stress out our children and are more likely to make mistakes and engage in irrational decisions and behavior. Panic creates new issues, like overbuying masks, sanitizers or toilet paper to stock up in case of self-quarantine. Keep in mind that your anxiety influences those around you. Too much anxiety spreads panic.


Reduce Anxiety by Reducing Your Risk

Don’t feel silly or embarrassed about taking necessary precautions. Follow the safety advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), such as frequent handwashing and covering sneezes and coughs. Stay home if you feel sick, get enough sleep, and take care of your immune system. Preparing a plan – such as minimizing exposure to large crowds – makes sense and can help reduce anxiety. Get your news and advice from trusted sources like the CDC and the World Health Organization


Manage Anxiety With Self-Care

During this uncertain time, it’s important to continue your self-care routine to reduce the anxiety you store up in your body. Everyone is different when it comes to managing anxiety and stress. Just because running is helpful to your friend, doesn’t mean you have to do the same. It’s important to find something that works for you. Here are some ideas:

1. Unplug

  • Limit the time you spend watching the news and being on social media
  • Unsubscribe from push notifications on your phone
  • Go for a walk and enjoy nature
  • Create a dedicated space to actively remove yourself from a stressful day and relax
  • Work on a hobby

2. Practice relaxation

3. Exercise

  • The more active you are, the more active your immune system tends to be. The key is to exercise regularly but not overdo it.

4. Get good sleep

  • Establish a healthy sleep routine and get the optimum 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. While you sleep, your body releases proteins that are necessary when fighting infection.

You can also seek out a counselor or talk to your loved ones about your feelings. Or call Methodist Emotional Support Line to speak with a licensed professional counselor from the Methodist Hospital Community Counseling Program. The free, confidential service can be accessed by dialing (402) 815-8255 (TALK) and is available Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Now is the time to practice your calming method to stay healthy and deal with prolonged unwanted anxiety.

More Resources

About the Author

Kelly Ethridge, MA, is the Best Care Employee Assistance Program account services coordinator.

Kelly became interested in this job after completing her Master’s degree in communication studies.  She wanted to focus her efforts in the non-profit arena and Best Care EAP seemed to be the perfect fit.

“The “meaning of care” is THE reason why you help those individuals in need in the first place, it helps to keep this saying in the back of your mind, I think the saying  - says it all, it’s catchy and it’s filled with “MEANING”.  LOVE IT!”  Kelly continues to promote this in everything she does for her job, whether it’s attending a client’s benefit fair or helping with a zoom meeting!

“I enjoy being able to influence and educate others on our programs and services while helping employees improve their emotional well-being through counseling or training,” she said.

The best part of her job is knowing she’s part of a team that’s making meaningful impacts on people’s lives. “Having individuals come up to me and say, ‘You saved my marriage.’ That’s priceless,” she said. “Or when I hear, ‘The counseling I received meant everything to me.’ That’s how I know the work we do is truly making a difference.”

In her free time, Ethridge enjoys stamping and embossing homemade cards and traveling – especially with her friends. Her favorite places include, Ireland, Scotland, Italy and New York City.

See more articles from Kelly Ethridge, MA
Photo of Kelly Ethridge