Teenage girl relaxing and listening to music at home as way to cope with anxiety

20 March 2020

If you are feeling anxious, worried or stressed about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) there are some simple things you can do to help. It’s important to know that feeling concerned or overwhelmed by the news is understandable, especially as your social media channels, which are usually places for fun and relaxation, are also full of it.

You might be worried about your own health, about someone you love, or, the impact the virus will have on your everyday life, especially if you’re about to take exams or have a job that might be under threat.  If you are feeling anxious here are some simple ideas that may help you to stay calm and reduce your stress levels during the COVID-19 outbreak. Or, jump to the end of the article for links to specific services.     

1. Talk to someone

It’s completely normal to feel worried, but if you are starting to feel overwhelmed, it’s important to notice how you’re feeling and talk to someone you trust. You could reach out to a friend, someone in the family, a teacher or a helpline (see the end of the article). Simply talking about how you are feeling can have a positive impact on anxiety.

If you are living with us, you could talk to your project worker or counsellor.

2. Separate facts from ‘false news’

Information about Coronvirus is everywhere and false reports can fuel anxiety. Stay on top of what’s happening by using the Government website, It’s the most up-to-date and reliable source of information.  The NHS website is also a reliable way to check the facts, particularly if you have any worries about symptoms and what you need to look out for or how to respond if you feel unwell.

Avoid asking friends for this kind of information; it is far better to stick to ‘official’ sources. This applies to social media too, as it is impossible to know which stories and posts are true. It’s all too easy to get absorbed in posts and ‘threads’ which may be both false and alarming. If social media is where you get your news, follow reliable sources such as BBC News.

The Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, may not look like a superhero, but his daily efforts to offer calm, clear advice about the virus have been heroic. He is consistent in his message that for most people, coronavirus will be a mild illness.

3. Don’t overexpose yourself to the news & social media

Many of us are constantly checking the news or our social feeds for updates. This can seem like the best way to gain ‘control’ over the situation. However, the opposite is true, as it is much more likely to lead to feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Try limiting the amount of time you read or watch the news, or, follow related coronavirus ‘threads’ on social media. When you do want to get an update, get it from reputable news sources (as above).

If you are finding it difficult to stay away from the news, try to actively plan other things to do or limit the amount of time you are on your phone. Rather than message friends, why not give them a call? Actually chatting to a friend creates a much greater connection, and so can be much more comforting. It’s also a really good way to keep up with anyone who is having to self-isolate. Reading, watching a film or going for a walk (at a safe distance from others 😉) are all good ways to avoid news binging.

Taking a break from social media, muting and unfollowing accounts that make you anxious is another option. Remember, with social media, you are in charge of what you see, so if you realise certain accounts (or friends) are fuelling your anxiety, mute them for a while.

4. Find things that help you feel calm

Everyone is different, so there isn’t a ‘one size’ fits all approach to finding what works for you. Some of us know what helps us stay calm, but, when we’re in an anxious state, we sometimes become our own worst enemies and ignore it. Instead of going for a run, we reach for a chocolate bar.  Or, we try to distract ourselves and turn to stimulants like cigarettes or alcohol which can leave you feeling worse. If you have struggled with this in the past, this might be a good time to try out some new ways of ‘self-soothing’ such as meditation, yoga, simple breathing techniques or keeping a diary.

It is also worth remembering that looking after yourself physically will make a difference to your anxiety levels. All the boring advice you’ve probably heard a million times is relevant: eat well, get enough sleep and stay physically active!

Ideas for reducing anxiety:

  • Physical activity – go for a run (being outside/fresh air will help too) or do online class
  • Play music
  • Call a friend
  • Read a book (try re-reading a favourite book as it can be very calming, it’s like meeting old friends)
  • Hot bath
  • Meditation/Breathing Techniques – lots of apps available to help guide you
  • Write down how you’re feeling or keep a diary

5. Is the advice around hygiene and handwashing triggering your anxiety?

For some people, the strong emphasis on increased hygiene and constant handwashing may trigger compulsive thoughts and unhelpful behaviours. If this is happening to you, don’t feel bad about it, but please talk to someone you trust.

There is advice on the OCD UK website that may be helpful.

6. How to cope with change to normal life

It is likely that you will be asked by your school, college or workplace to stay at home for a period of time. If you are living at home, talk to your family about how this will work and share your feelings with them, if you can. We know that this may be a daunting prospect, but try to think of it as an opportunity to live in a different way for a while. If this creates serious concerns for you, contact one of the services at the end of the article.

If you are living in one of our housing projects, reach out to your project worker and let them know how you’re feeling. They will be able to tell you what is happening in your building and will keep you up to date with the latest advice.

Think about whether there are new things you might be able to do during this time, how you will stay connected with friends, and, how to prioritise your wellbeing. Thinking about how to deal with it if it happens it will help reduce anxiety.

7. Dealing with self-isolation

If you’re not well or have been in contact with people who are not well, you may be asked to ‘self-isolate’. This means staying away from other people to prevent the potential spread of illness. If you find you have been advised to self-isolate, the government have guidelines on their website on how to do this.  Again, if this applies to you living in our accommodation, your project worker will tell you what you need to do.

Wherever you might be when you self-isolate, think about who you can keep in contact with and how you can use apps such as WhatsApp and Zoom to talk to someone face to face. It’s important that you talk to people you trust during this time and continue to stay connected. They might be in the same situation and can help you navigate anything you are going through.

If you are on any medication, please do continue taking it, unless advised otherwise by your doctor. If you are worried about getting your prescription, call the pharmacy where you collect your medication or your GP. They can arrange to get your prescription delivered or picked up by someone else.

Maintain your routine as much as possible by getting up in the morning and going to bed at the same time. Eating regular meals and staying hydrated will help also, as well as taking breaks throughout the day to talk to someone or do something that you enjoy. If it’s possible, try activities in your home that get you moving, like yoga or dancing. There are whole communities of people getting together online to sing, dance and even do pub quizzes.

8. Looking after your mental health whilst self-isolating

It’s important during this time that you keep acknowledging how you are feeling and do this regularly. We know that things might continue to feel overwhelming or scary. It’s good for you to talk about this where possible – know that you can say ‘I feel anxious about…’ whenever you need to, and as regularly as you need to.

You may find that you need extra support, so think about who you can turn to. It could be someone you know or a helpline that can talk to you about how you might be feeling.

9. Helpline services available

YoungMinds Crisis Messenger

Provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK if you are experiencing a mental health crisis

If you need urgent help text YM to 85258

All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors

Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.

Childline

Comforts, advises and protects children 24 hours a day and offers free confidential counselling.

Phone 0800 1111 (24 hours)

Chat 1-2-1 with a counsellor online

The Mix

Information, support and listening for people under 25.

Phone 0808 808 4994 (24 hours)

Get support online

Samaritans

24-hour confidential listening and support for anyone who needs it. (Adults included.)

jo@samaritans.org

Phone 116 123 (24 hours)

Tags: