Keep calm and carry on: Manage coronavirus anxiety

Apr 05, 2020
Meditation can eliminate stress, release feel-good chemicals, and increase relaxation. Source: Getty.

If the coronavirus outbreak is stressing you out, you’re not alone. With all the uncertainty around the coronavirus and the daily changes we’re making to our lives, it’s totally normal to feel stressed or anxious. On top of that, there’s a lot of misinformation about the coronavirus floating around.

But there are steps you can take to help you remain calm in these uncertain times. From staying connected with friends and family to getting enough sleep, here are some ways to cope with stress and anxiety amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Stay connected

We’re now all-in on social distancing to stop the spread of Covid-19, but that doesn’t mean we have to disconnect entirely. It’s so important to remain connected to others while we self-isolate. This could be as simple as making a phone call, sending a text or setting up a video chat with your grandkids or friends.

“Take this time to use technology and stay connected,” meditation teacher Luke McLeod tells Starts at 60.

Maintain a healthy diet

A healthy diet plays an important role in your overall health and wellbeing, leading dietician and director of program and science for WW, Michelle Celander, tells Starts at 60.

“A healthy diet not only gives you energy but also improves your quality of sleep and stress levels, which can ultimately improve your overall mental wellbeing,” she says.

Celander recommends filling your plate up with colourful fruits and vegetables at every meal and eating plenty of legumes and whole grains. Studies have also found that omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish like salmon and trout, can improve mental health.

She also recommends reducing the number of processed foods, alcohol and caffeine you consume, as research shows these foods can lead to low moods and increased anxiety.

Give mindfulness a try

“If you haven’t tried meditation before, now is the perfect opportunity to do so,” McLeod says.

A regular practice can eliminate stress, release feel-good chemicals, and increase relaxation. Meditation is also associated with a reduced risk of depression. The best part is that meditation is simple and free. If you’re just starting out, even just practising for five to ten minutes each day will have an impact. If you’re unsure of what to do, there are plenty of videos online that will teach you how to meditate.

Take up an old hobby

Taking up a hobby you used to enjoy can be extremely therapeutic during tough times.

“Maybe it might be time to take a visit to the garage and bring out some old hobbies that might have slipped away over time,” McLeod suggests. “This could be dusting off an old guitar or keyboard, taking the cover off some old gym equipment or maybe even pulling out some board games or puzzles.”

It could even be the perfect time to buckle down and learn a new skill. Why not learn a new language online? Or take up writing or journaling? If you’ve always enjoyed dreaming up stories in your head or just want an outlet to sort out your thoughts, writing could be the perfect hobby for you. There are all sorts of ways to express yourself through writing, but journaling and blogging could be a great place to start.

Get enough sleep

“Poor sleep can contribute to mood dips and heightened anxiety, so aim to get about seven to nine hours of sleep per night,” Celander advises.

To help improve your quality of sleep, try relaxation activities like meditation, reading, or taking a hot bath. It’s also a good idea to limit screen time before bed.

Get moving

Exercise can be a great way to lift your mood, according to Celander. Research shows that regular exercise can boost your mood, reduce stress and improve a number of mental health problems. Celander recommends incorporating at least half an hour of exercise into your day, which could be as simple as taking a 30-minute walk in the morning or afternoon.

Just breathe

Sometimes just taking a few deep breaths can help reduce stress and anxiety levels. “An easy practice to remember is to breathe in for the count of eight, hold for a count of eight and then release the breath for another count of eight,” McLeod says. “Repeat this three times and you’ll be amazed how much you’ll instantly feel better. “

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