The circumstances surrounding the COVD-19 pandemic are tailor-made for heightening anxiety. People with chronic anxiety disorders will suffer disproportionately. Enforced isolation while being fed information that generally brings news of threats to life, to economic stability and social cohesion, as well as deep uncertainty about the future, will intensify anxiety. Even those who are fearful of social interaction may find the restraint on movement only serves to reinforce their self-limiting fears. People may feel that they have lost all control over their lives, particularly if sources of income have dried up.
Through the language and tone used, information is often imparted in anxiety provoking ways. It is not always trustworthy while arriving continually from a wide variety of sources. It can be difficult to make sense of it all. An already anxious person may light upon items of news that serve only to confirm their worst fears. They may feel that anything that can go wrong will go wrong and disastrously so.
Fear of being alone without readily available support will be intensified by having to keep the social distance required to limit the spread of COVID-19. In such circumstances an anxious person may find it even harder to turn off worry and rumination, which can be fruitlessly circular in nature. Adolescents may experience the isolation more intensely, particularly if family dynamics are already problematic. Disconnection from friends and increased worries about the future may exacerbate any emotional volatility.
What helps anxious people to cope at this very difficult time? An overriding principle is to come to an early recognition of the things that are in a person’s control and those that are not.
Taking regular breaks from news and other information surrounding Coronavirus will likely prove a relief. Furthermore, in order to obtain information about COVID-19 and related events that can be trusted, it is best to rely solely on reputable authoritative outlets. Anything that fuels speculation is to be avoided. It will be beneficial to maintain connection with friends and family through electronic media, wherever possible linking up in ways that allow everyone sight of each other. Sharing positives with colleagues, friends and family, whether individually or in groups, will encourage all concerned. To guard against excessive self-preoccupation it is important to find ways to give emotionally to others. Practicing the calming processes of Mindfulness can be of real benefit. Evidence is also emerging that colouring and puzzle solving, which are both diverting and absorbing, may decrease anxiety.Other ways to manage anxiety include establishing a routine and setting boundaries in terms of both time and space between activities such as work and relaxation, with time for parenting a factor for many. It will be important to keep busy in a quietly measured and purposeful way where achievable goals are set. Even small achievements can prove rewarding and motivating while raising self-esteem. Drinking sufficient water and avoiding alcohol and caffeinated drinks will have a part to play, not least because both have an adverse effect on sleep. Finding a way to incorporate fairly energetic exercise, however limited the space available, will also serve to ease anxiety. It is possible to access therapeutic help online where Cognitive Behavioural Therapy would be a preferred option or to participate in support groups. While incorporating an approach to life under COVID-19 restrictions that involves taking one day at a time, it is as well to be reminded that this crisis too will pass.