Meditate, Exercise, Limit Social Media: 12 Expert-Approved Ways to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety
The threat that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) poses to physical health is serious and ongoing, and as the outbreak continues, the relentless fear, stress, and uncertainty are taking their toll on mental health as well. "The coronavirus is causing widespread panic not only to [people] who suffer from anxiety already, but also to the community at large," said Carrie C. Mead, MS, LCPC, a psychotherapist in Maryland.
The reasoning behind the anxiety is simple, even if the road to managing it is not. Fear is a natural and adaptive response to situations like these, one of the basic survival mechanisms programmed to keep us alive, explained neuroscientist Jud Brewer, MD, PhD, head of the Mindfulness Center at Brown University and founder of MindSciences. "Yet when you couple fear with uncertainty, then that leads to anxiety."
Add to that the nonstop flow of information, some of it more accurate than others, fed to us by social media and the news. The barrage of anxiety-inducing headlines makes it incredibly easy to spiral into panic, feeding into a phenomenon called social contagion. "I think of social contagion as basically passing emotion from one person to another," Dr. Brewer said. Essentially, panic and other strong emotions can spread like viruses in their own right, especially through social media, ramping up any preexisting anxiety and leaving you feeling helpless, scared, and likely to pass the stress on to others.
Anxiety around the coronavirus outbreak is natural, but managing it can be difficult, especially if you're cut off from your usual routine and network of support, as many of us now are. In this unprecedented situation, we asked 12 mental-health professionals how to understand coronavirus anxiety and the best ways to cope and stay calm while navigating this uniquely challenging time.