As someone who’s suffered from an anxiety disorder for 13 years now, I’ve become all too familiar with my brain’s annoying patterns of dealing with perceived danger.
This often begins with the air catching in my throat — followed by rapid heart palpitations, sweaty palms and the general feeling that I’m genuinely about to die.
Sometimes, racing to the bathroom to calm my (irrationally) frenzied nerves is the only way to feel okay.
Now, dump COVID-19 into the picture — and there you have a formula for heightened anxiety.
On Mar 11, 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially declared the virus a pandemic.
It was inevitable, sure, but that declaration has caused many of us to experience prolonged, uncomfortably foreign feelings — of anxiety.
And it appears to have manifested into something of a global phenomenon.
So: how you gonna cope?
Why Uncertainty Makes Us Anxious
Uncertainty is more stressful than knowing you’re in for a negative outcome.
At least, that’s one conclusion a 2016 study by science research journal Nature arrived at — backed by the fact that uncertainty and unpredictability are central causes of stress.
Those who experience higher levels of prolonged stress may also be prone to behaving as if their environment is more uncertain than it may actually be.
But let’s not linger on this.
Here’re some ways to cope with COVID-19 anxiety, particularly if it’s been eating at you.
How to Cope With COVID-19 Anxiety
#1: Understand You Can’t Change Things
…But (cheesy!) you can change your perception of the COVID-19 situation.
That means being aware of when you’re falling into negative thought patterns, and challenging them with rational ones.
For instance, thinking “The world is ending — and everyone is going to die, including me,” is hardly helpful.
#2: Get Some Perspective
I never thought I’d say this, but we’re effusively lucky to live in a country like Singapore — whose tired, repetitive campaigns about emergency preparedness were in fact…not all that pointless.
Unlike most nations, there’ve only been two deaths in Singapore from COVID-19.
Yep, the pandemic’s highlighted that it never hurts to be over-prepared. We’re literally living in one of the best, safest countries at this point.
#3: Educate Yourself
Knowing the facts about the virus is important — it lends some form of assurance and awareness — but avoid alarmist news or sharing viral posts with purported cures for COVID-19.
Social media, in particular, has become a breeding ground for misinformation and fake news.
Try subscribing to alerts from select news sites, and shave out the rest.
Here’s a concise list of must-knows to get you started:
- Resilience Budget: Additional Support Measures for Singaporeans
- COVID-19 Travel Restrictions and Precautions
- Resources and Platforms to Help You Find A Job Amidst COVID-19
- Free or Affordable Things to Do If You’re Stuck at Home
#4: Set Aside Time to Worry
Silly as it may sound, allocating a set amount of time to worry has done me good — by keeping my anxieties in check.
An example might include setting aside 30 minutes a day to list out everything you’re fretting over, before moving on with your day.
So if you find your mind treading into irrational territory, save or drop the thought for later.
This delays and challenges unhealthy thoughts, and would ultimately make you feel lighter, both physically and mentally.
#5: Find Your Own Stability
When everything seems uncertain, find your own stability — by establishing ground rules, and a routine to stick by.
If you’re doing a work-from-home, try these tips:
- Waking up the same time you would a regular work day
- Taking a bath
- Dressing right (e.g. in your work attire, if it’d get you in the right frame of mind)
- Working from a proper desk
And if you tend to get peckish, these online snack delivery options should stave your cravings.
These tips on coping with COVID-19 anxiety aren’t exhaustive, of course.
If you’re in need of reassurance, there are mental health services and subsidies in Singapore to help you along.
Meantime, these are two free counselling options that are offering help during these uncertain times: