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5 Ways to Reduce Anxiety During the COVID-19 Outbreak

March 31, 2020

Worrying about catching an infectious disease, the coronavirus or otherwise, while taking care of your family, can be a stressful time. Nathaniel Van Kirk, PhD, Kathryn D. Boger, PhD, ABPP, and Marni Chanoff, MD, from McLean, shared ways to keep you and your family feeling mentally balanced and safe in your household during an uncertain time.

1. Stay Informed With Trusted Sources

“Given the onslaught of media coverage and information, it’s important to make sure you are getting updates from reputable sources,” said Nathaniel Van Kirk, PhD. Good sources include:

Each provides timely updates and information that will help filter out what has been sensationalized for the news.

2. Stay Calm

Kathryn D. Boger, PhD, ABPP, program director of the McLean Anxiety Mastery Program, explained that when it comes to anxiety and frightening situations, we can find ourselves in common thinking traps. To combat this, we can try to catch ourselves when we go down a path of unhelpful or extreme thinking.

3. Have a Plan

Marni Chanoff, MD, a psychiatrist at McLean Hospital, said, “Keep and rely on a list. This should include needed food supplies and medications, and health care professional and work contacts.” Keep items on your list stocked and replenished, and your contacts updated. Enlist others in your networks in your plans. If you live alone, look to your support network to help you plan.

“Maintaining balance in daily life and not letting your day be consumed by the ‘next headline’ is important to maintain perspective in the uncertainty of daily life.”– Dr. Nathaniel Van Kirk

4. Name and Validate Emotions

Recognizing emotions in a frightening time is helpful for everyone. There are many adults who are concerned about the state of the coronavirus, both for themselves and for their loved ones, and “it’s also important to be mindful of what we’re modeling,” Boger said. “Checking in on our own emotional states and taking steps to manage our emotions before talking to loved ones is important.”

5. Take Care of Yourself

“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Chanoff said. Sleep, nutritious eating, good hygiene, exercise, fresh air, connecting with people—these are the basics, and it’s a good reminder that what’s being recommended now is what we’ve been encouraged to do all the time. Managing our anxiety, said Boger, can also be done through activities such as mindfulness, cognitive coping, and breathing exercises.

Takeaways

The biggest takeaway of this health crisis, experts agree, is that we need to take care of ourselves. “Maintaining balance in daily life and not letting your day be consumed by the ‘next headline,’” said Van Kirk, “is important to maintain perspective in the uncertainty of daily life.”

Are you or a loved one struggling to manage anxiety or stress? McLean Hospital is here to help.

Call us now at 877.646.5272 to learn more about treatment for depression, stress, or anxiety.