Most of us never imagined living through a global pandemic — and yet, here we are, learning to deal with this new kind of stress and anxiety every day. The first step to coping is realizing that these reactions are incredibly common: Over 80 percent of people feel significantly more anxious as a result of the outbreak, according to a Thrive Global survey of 5,000 respondents about coronavirus pain points. What’s more, psychological research on past crises shows that we’re more likely to feel stressed and fearful when we have little control over a threat, and even more so when that threat is new and unfamiliar. The coronavirus outbreak checks all of those boxes.
When feelings of stress and anxiety hit, we often default to coping mechanisms that we think make us feel better, but ironically make it harder to deal with our stress. Scrolling through social media during a public health crisis, for example, has been shown to cause more anxiety than engaging with traditional media, like the evening news.
And a mountain of science shows that the sooner we can deal with our feelings of stress and anxiety, the easier it is to safeguard against negative effects to our physical and mental well-being, even during uncertain times like the coronavirus outbreak.
If you’re one of the millions of people looking to ease your anxiety about the coronavirus and better adjust to our new normal, try adding these six simple Microsteps to your daily routine:
When you receive a notification that causes stress, pause and focus on the rising and falling of your breath for 10 seconds.
Conscious breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for lowering the stress hormone cortisol and as well as inflammation levels.
Set aside a specific time (even five minutes) each day or week (depending on your level of worry) dedicated to coronavirus worry time.
Write down or reflect on anything that’s causing you to worry. Don’t set expectations about solving your worries or generating solutions. If you catch yourself worrying outside of this time, try deep breathing, reframing, or jotting down your thoughts for your next Worry Time session.
When you’re washing your hands, use those 20 seconds to think of three things you are grateful for.
Taking this time to reflect on what you’re grateful for will help you meet C.D.C. guidelines for lowering your risk of viral infection while reinforcing a more positive mindset. Plus, research shows that expressing gratitude can lessen feelings of anxiety.
Schedule time to go outside.
Even just a few minutes will help you recharge and fight any anxious feelings that are bogging you down. Vitamin D from the sun is critical for our immune system health, and “green exercise,” or outdoor physical activity, has been shown to lower anxiety levels.
Set a news cut-off time at the end of the day.
While being informed can help you feel more prepared amid a public health crisis, setting healthy limits to your media consumption can help you have a restorative night’s sleep and put the stressful news into perspective.
Before you get into bed, escort your devices out of your bedroom.
Our phones are repositories of our anxieties and fears, especially in times of crisis and constant news updates. Disconnecting will help you sleep better, recharge, and reconnect to your most resilient self.
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