Experts’ tips for managing anxiety amid coronavirus pandemic

As coronavirus continues to spread, it’s important to take of your mental health as well as your physical health, experts note.

Amid the COVID-19 spread, experts encourage people to look out for mental health, as well as physical

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, it’s important to take care of your mental health as well as your physical health, experts note.

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that “the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for people and communities.”

ExploreComplete coverage of the coronavirus in Georgia

“Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children,” the CDC’s website states.

While the emotional impact of an emergency varies for different individuals, the CDC notes that people with preexisting mental health conditions should continue regular treatment plans, as well as being conscious of new symptoms that arise.

“Coping with these feelings and getting help when you need it will help you, your family, and your community recover from a disaster. Connect with family, friends, and others in your community. Take care of yourself and each other, and know when and how to seek help,” the CDC recommends.

Psychologist Elissa Epel, who works at the University of California, San Francisco, also shared some tips for navigating coronavirus-related stress, panic and anxiety.

"When threats are uncertain, such as the current coronavirus situation, our anxious minds can easily overestimate the actual threat and underestimate our ability to cope with it," Epel notes.

Which is why she and other experts suggest sticking with reliable sources of information, creating a plan to reduce your own risk of interacting with the virus and also checking in with people around you.

ExploreThree Georgia cities in top 25% of most stressed in U.S.

"While some anxiety helps us cope, extreme anxiety can become coronavirus panic. When we are in a panic state, we suffer, we stress out our children, we are more likely to make mistakes and engage in irrational decisions and behavior,” she says.

The Child Mind Institute also points parents and educators toward some tips for discussing coronavirus with kids who may be feeling anxious about the situation.

Jamie Howard, the Child Mind Institute's director of trauma and resilience service, said in an informational video that parents shouldn't be afraid of discussing the virus outbreak with their kids.

Howard says it’s an opportunity to communicate with kids about the facts. The institute recommends that parents are the ones who consume the news, then relay to kids.

ExploreHow to talk to kids about coronavirus without scaring them

Additionally, the CDC recommends the following measure to look out for your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak:

Stay informed, but avoid over-saturating yourself with coverage of the virus

Take deep breaths and try to meditate

When you can, eat healthy foods and get regular exercise

Take time to unwind “and remind yourself that strong feelings fade”

Take breaks from consuming coverage

Connect with others about what you are feeling

Maintain healthy relationships with friends or family members

Try to maintain a sense of positive thinking

ExploreStudy: Walking near water can boost your mood

The CDC also has resources available about coping with a disaster or traumatic event here.

Here are some things to keep in mind about anxiety, as previously reported by the AJC:

What is anxiety?

Anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), is defined as "an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure."

How is anxiety different from anxiety disorder?

While anxiety is a normal emotional reaction to stress, anxiety disorders involve excessive fear or anxiety.

Generally, someone with anxiety disorder would have fear or anxiety that is out of proportion to the situation or inappropriate for his or her age.

The anxiety would also affect normal day-to-day function.

How many people in the U.S. have anxiety disorder?

Research from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) shows anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million American adults 18 years or older (18.1 percent) each year.

Tips to manage your anxiety and stress

The ADAA put together this helpful infographic with simple but effective tips, such as improving your eating and sleeping habits, squeezing some fitness into your day and more.

How to deal with stress and anxiety: An infographic from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America
How to deal with stress and anxiety: An infographic from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Credit: Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Credit: Anxiety and Depression Association of America

ExploreCoronavirus, cold or the flu? Here’s how to tell the difference

CDC recommends preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

• CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

• If you are concerned you might have the coronavirus, call your healthcare provider before going to a hospital or clinic. In mild cases, your doctor might give you advice on how to treat symptoms at home without seeing you in person, which would reduce the number of people you expose. But in more severe cases an urgent care center or hospital would benefit from advance warning because they can prepare for your arrival. For example, they may want you to enter a special entrance, so you don't expose others.

Source: CDC