How to manage anxiety during the Coronavirus pandemic

It’s not easy with the daily updates of Coronavirus infection rates to stay calm and anxiety free. It’s a worrying time and the information is constantly changing.  It would seem that Coronavirus is a daily conversation for us all. 

Kim Moore, Senior Lecturer in Mental Health and Learning Disability Nursing talks us through how to manage our anxiety during the Coronavirus lockdown. She adds, that like her, you are probably worrying about the risk to yourself and family members, you may even know people who have been affected and this could enhance your feelings of anxiety. Given the rapid spread of the virus globally, it is normal to be concerned about Coronavirus. Remember that anxiety often works to protect us from harm, but if it begins to overwhelm you to the exclusion of your normal daily activities then this could be a problem.

Will this have an impact on your daily life?

Well yes, if nothing else you will be talking about local, national and international events. Use Public Health England to check for reputable updates on what to do.

What can I do to reduce my anxiety about catching the virus?

It can be hard to shift your thoughts about something that is currently happening around you, so distraction is a good way to help reduce your levels of stress and anxiety.  Here are some activities that may help:

  • Having a routine is really important. This keeps your brain and body active and can be a very good distraction.
  • Download an image for adult colouring and create a masterpiece – this is a soothing activity.
  • Put on your favourite song and sing along to the lyrics.
  • Watch a film or game show and turn the sound up to immerse yourself in the action or watch a comedy that will make you laugh.
  • Start a new game on your game console if you have one, or play against others online.
  • Learn a new language.
  • Call or FaceTime a friend and chat about the latest film you watched or book you read.
  • Do some yoga or tai chi.
  • Take yourself for a stroll in your local park.
  • Spend time with a pet, if you have one.
  • If you can’t resist, spring clean the kitchen or clean the oven.
  • If you need something more strenuous, shadow box or use your pillow as a boxing bag – if you want to make this fun, have a pillow fight.

You have to remember that we are trying to be everything to everyone at the moment. Whether that’s working from home, being our children’s teacher, being a parent, looking after our parents – this is four full-time jobs and it’s just not possible. So be kind to yourself. Look at your routine and think about what you are trying to achieve. You are going to have to make some changes and sometimes this can mean being less productive in some areas. This is okay.

What about managing anxiety in our children?

Since many of us will be acting as the parent and teacher, we need to consider how we talk about the Coronavirus with our children. During such extraordinary times, where we become anxious, so do our children. Children have great imaginations, which can be powerful influences on their moods and behaviours, so how might the current Coronavirus isolation be affecting them? You know your children better than anyone so you may see changes in their mood or behaviour during this time. Some of this may well be that they are simply growing up, but it may also be due to the change in their lives and the lives of others around them. 

So how do you talk to your children about Coronavirus?

  • Ask them about the Coronavirus and what they have heard people talk about. This gets the discussion started and is appropriate for most age groups.
  • Focus your conversations on what they are worried about.
  • Be age-appropriate in your explanations and with older children or teenagers you can explore this together using social media to bust any myths and find reliable facts.
  • Reassure and talk about misunderstandings your children may have about the virus.
  • Talk to your older children about your concerns, remember to consider their age and how appropriate this is.  It can be quite powerful to have a parent discuss their concerns but show how they are coping with this.
  • If they see you being anxious they will also become anxious so consider how you might as a family practice some anxiety management techniques, you can use anything from colouring or drawing pictures to yoga stretches and baking.
  • Get your children to create a sign for the NHS workers (or any other professional) they want to say something to.

This will highlight positive actions we can take to support each other, and it works well as a distraction. You don’t have to be an artist as you can download templates if you want to.

Teenagers are easier to talk to about the Coronavirus, but it is still important to check with them the information that they know. What are they seeing on social media? How do they feel about it? Is their source reliable, and what do they understand from what they have been reading about? Can you combine this with some research on anatomy or biology or social studies?

Given that our teenage years can be rather volatile and emotional, it is important to check with our teenagers how they are feeling about the current situation. Take care of their internet use. This is an ideal opportunity for exploitation by others via internet chat rooms and being at home means that they can be more online than they would be at school.

Final thoughts

It is normal to be stressed out about Coronavirus and worried about what is happening with the number of people being affected and dying. Most of us are feeling overwhelmed by the current situation so you are not alone. Use distraction where you can, but it is okay to not cope at times. Keep talking to each other about how you are feeling, this helps more than you think it will. If you need it, there are online chat rooms for people who have anxiety that you can use.


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