We are living in an unprecedented time that is causing many people around the world to feel anxious, afraid and uncertain about what will come next. It is important to be informed but there is a limit to how much information is helpful and avoiding too much media exposure is an important aspect of self-care and anxiety regulation. A recent article published in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak discusses the impact of global media exposure on mental health (Garfin, Silver, & Holman, 2020). There tends to be a spike in stress responses in the midst and the aftermath of threatening events that are associated with increased help-seeking behaviors. These behaviors may be disproportionate to the present threat that an individual is experiencing and can be harmful to relief efforts due to individuals seeking emergency resources when they are not necessary or panic buying items such as toilet paper and first aid kids which creates a global shortage. Additionally, the heightened stress responses to media exposure during a collective crisis can lead to long-lasting physical health impacts, particularly cardiovascular disorders, presenting even 3 years after the threatening event has ended (Garfin et al., 2020).
Additionally, research has shown that individuals with a lower tolerance for uncertainty are at greater risk for the onset or exacerbation of anxiety-related disorders and other mental health disorders related to the uncertainty (Taha, Matheson, Cronin, & Anisman, 2014). Currently, there are only predictions for when this pandemic will end and it is highly dependent upon the collective effort to socially distance ourselves. Therefore, there are many factors of life that are uncertain, from job security to having trust that everyone will do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For many, the ability to provide for family and pay bills is the line that can create insurmountable stress in addition to the stress of the pandemic and places another layer of uncertainty on individuals. This is why it is important to develop helpful coping strategies and self-care practices to mitigate the anxiety related to lack of information.
In times of anxiety, uncertainty, and disruption to our daily norms, it is important to pay attention to and care for ourselves. This may take many different forms for different people and it is important to respect each others preferred self-care methods. There is a narrative that has been perpetuated in the wake of this pandemic that with all of the extra time we have due to working from home that we should use it to enhance ourselves by learning a new skill or creating significant change in our lives. While for some, this may provide a sense of comfort and purpose, others may feel burdened by the pressure to cultivate something new to show for their newfound time. However you decide to spend this time, self-care will be a helpful tool to reduce the depression or anxiety you may be feeling. Here are some tips for taking care of yourself in this time of high stress and uncertainty:
Get enough sleep: It can be very difficult to sleep when you are stuck at home and feeling stressed about the ambiguity of what tomorrow will look like. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule will help create a routine and allow you to feel in control of one aspect of your day. Pandemic or not, we still need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night to function well throughout the day.
Keep yourself moving: Having some form of daily movement is important for both physical and mental health, whether it is a walk or workout in your living room, this can help ease the burden of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders (Chekroud & Trugerman, 2019).
Keep in touch: Social distancing is a necessary step to take to prevent the spread of disease, but it can lead to individuals feeling isolated and disconnected from others, especially those living alone. Try to keep up with friends and family over the phone or via video chat. Not only will this help you feel more connected to your social circles but it will have positive health benefits as well. Research shows that the more social connection that you have, the healthier your immune system is (Cohen, Doyle, & Skoner, 1997).
Stay informed but allow yourself to unplug: For essential updates on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html). There you can find information about the disease, regular updates about the reported cases around the United States, guidelines for how to prevent spreading the disease, and more information on stress responses and coping during the pandemic. After gathering all the necessary information, take a break from the media and engage in something you enjoy.
Chekroud, A. M., & Trugerman, A. (2019). The opportunity for exercise to improve population
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Cohen, S., Doyle, W. & Skoner, D. (1997). Social Ties and Susceptibility to the Common Cold.
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Garfin, D. R., Silver, R. C., & Holman, E. A. (2020). The novel coronavirus (COVID-2019)
outbreak: Amplification of public health consequences by media exposure. Health Psychology. https://doi-org.du.idm.oclc.org/10.1037/hea0000875
Taha, S., Matheson, K., Cronin, T., & Anisman, H. (2014). Intolerance of uncertainty, appraisals,
coping, and anxiety: The case of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. British Journal of Health
Psychology, 19(3), 592–605. https://doi-org.du.idm.oclc.org/10.1111/bjhp.12058