Covid-19 has ushered in a time of intense fear and anxiety worldwide. Some of us are in areas that have already been affected by coronavirus. Others are bracing for what may come. And all of us are watching the headlines and wondering, “What is going to happen next?” Our 24-hour news cycle and immediate access to information (and misinformation) online contributes to these fears as we can get constant updates, theories and opinions online and on the television. It might feel like all this dread and fear is inescapable.
The uncertainty surrounding coronavirus can be the hardest aspect to handle in this crisis. We don’t know for certain when we will be able to return to a more “normal life” or when this threat would truly lessen. And the uncertainty makes it all too easy to catastrophize and spiral out into overwhelming dread and panic. But there are many things you can do—even in the face of this unique crisis—to manage your anxiety and fears.
Stay informed—but don’t obsessively check the news
According to the CDC it’s vital to stay informed, particularly about what’s happening in your community, so you can follow advised safety precautions and do your part to slow the spread of coronavirus. But there’s a lot of misinformation going around, that Facebook meme that says “a Doctor states…” isn’t a reputable source for medical information. Even many news sources depend on sensationalistic coverage that only feeds into fear. It’s important to be discerning about what you read and watch.
Stick to trustworthy sources such as the CDC, the World Health Organization, and your local public health authorities. These sources focus on facts and avoid the sensationalistic aspect of news opinion shows and websites.
Limit how often you check for updates. Constant monitoring of news and social media feeds can quickly turn compulsive and counterproductive—fueling anxiety rather than easing it. The limit is different for everyone, so pay attention to how you’re feeling and adjust accordingly.
It is okay (and healthy) to step away from media if you start feeling overwhelmed. If anxiety is an ongoing issue, consider limiting your media consumption to a specific time frame and time of day (e.g. thirty minutes each evening at 6 pm). You may even choose to step away for a news break for an entire day in order to refocus or take a “news breather”. You can always catch up on updates later.
Either shut off your phone news alerts or limit how often they send you “breaking news”. Some news apps will send you alerts a few times each hour, which can overwhelm (and distract) you from being able to focus on anything else other than Covid-19. Go into your News App “notifications” and you can choose to shut off or limit how often the app will send you an update.
If watching the news or reading updates increases your anxiety too much you can ask someone reliable to share important updates.
Be careful what you share online. Do your best to verify information before passing it on so that you are not a part of the issue spreading misinformation all over social media. Snopes’ Coronavirus Collection is one place to start. We all need to do our part to avoid spreading rumors and creating unnecessary panic.
The idea is to remain informed but not obsessed where your fear and anxiety prevents you from functioning. It is not easy as a global pandemic brings such uncertainty; however, we know our selves best and how much news and information we need and can manage without becoming overly stressed. We can stay safe and informed with facts and ensure we give ourselves time for ourselves and our families so that we can manage our mental and physical health. And don’t forget, there are plenty of silly cat videos, heartwarming news articles on Covid-19 recovery and humorous movies and TV shows we can watch on our media platforms.