15 Ways to Overcome Stress and Anxiety Related to Coronavirus
There’s no doubt that we are navigating strange times. Globally, business processes and production have halted or slowed, all while we’re also dealing with stresses related to our own health along with that of our families and our friends. A lot has changed in a very short time, but we’re here for you. This article will help you understand stress and anxiety and learn how to work through the hard times to maintain productivity, success and peace of mind.
Understanding Feelings of Stress and Anxiety
We all have experienced feelings of anxiety at some point in our lives. Maybe you get nervous about public speaking, or maybe it’s the butterflies you get in your stomach on your first day at a new job. Anxiety is a normal part of being a living, breathing human. It’s also important to understand that stress can be both good and bad—there are types of stress that can motivate you to take action, but there are also types of stress that can immobilize you or cause negative long-term physical reactions in the body.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) confirms that everyone experiences anxiety many times over the course of their life. However, when these feelings of anxiety start to become overwhelming, they may be developing into an anxiety disorder. Research shows that an estimated 40 million adults suffer from an anxiety disorder. During times of crisis, this number will increase. Anxiety disorders may have the following symptoms:
- Feelings of fear or dread
- Feeling tense and/or jumpy
- Restlessness and/or irritability
- Always anticipating the worst
- Racing heart and/or shortness of breath
- Upset stomach
- Headaches, fatigue and insomnia
- Development of twitches, tremors and/or excessive sweating
If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself or someone you care about, know that you are not alone. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 13 people globally suffer from anxiety—in fact, anxiety disorders are the most common disorders worldwide.
Stress and Anxiety During the Coronavirus
According to UC Berkeley researchers, individuals may feel a wide variety of anxiety-related symptoms in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s what they’ve anticipated people will experience:
- Anxiety, worry and panic
- Feeling helpless
- Social withdrawal
- Difficulty concentrating and sleeping
- Hypervigilance in regard to health and bodily safety
We are heading toward an uncertain future. As a result, mental health professionals are starting to notice collective signs of grief, as well as anxiety and stress. NPR has reported on the need to recognize the signs of grief that may accompany the realization that things are changing rapidly outside of our control. In many ways, we are going through a global grieving process. We are grieving everything we are losing due to COVID-19, including:
- Social connections
- Daily habits
- Comfortable environments
- Assumptions of security and safety
- Trust in our systems, including the government
Many of us are feeling an empathetic sense of loss for others as well. Even those of us who are safe and secure likely know someone who has lost their job or a loved one.
How to Manage Your Anxiety
Luckily, there is no shortage of tactics you can use to mitigate feelings of stress and anxiety. Furthermore, mental health professionals are working hard to continually update the community on new discoveries and coping tactics. Take comfort in the knowledge that they are working hard to make sure everyone feels supported.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for example, recommends staying updated on official facts related to the coronavirus instead of accidentally engaging with and spreading rumors. Part of the overall coping process, they say, has to do with:
- taking regular breaks from news about the pandemic
- taking care of your body with regular exercise, meditation and healthy foods
- prioritizing time for leisure and relaxation
- connecting with loved ones using technology
NAMI echoes these ideas, recommending that individuals stay updated with important information through the CDC as opposed to your aunt’s shared Facebook posts, and that you continue using the methods you’d normally use to deal with feelings of anxiety.
To help you, we’ve compiled a list of 15 coping methods to help you with stress and anxiety related to coronavirus. Start using any of these methods today:
- Accept that you cannot control what is happening outside your own home.
- Make an effort to replace negative thought patterns with positive ones – when you notice cyclical patterns of negative thinking, acknowledge the thoughts and practice replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones.
- Learn what triggers your anxiety the most – fears about work, your family? Trying recording your triggers in a journal. The better you are at anticipating triggers, the better you’ll be at keeping your anxiety at a manageable level.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine. Instead, drink more water.
- Eat well-balanced meals. Doing what you can to stay healthy will help you manage your anxiety.
- Get enough sleep—remember, in times of high stress, you may need more sleep than usual. This is okay; honor your body’s needs.
- Exercise daily.
- Practice deep breathing.
- Light candles and use aromatherapy to ground yourself. If you’re struggling to sleep well, using a lavender-scented candle or essential oil can help promote feelings of calm and peacefulness.
- Get into a daily journaling practice—writing down your thoughts and feelings every day can help you process intense feelings. A bonus of journaling through the pandemic is that you are recording a slice of history that could be interesting to future generations!
- Find ways to be active in the community from a distance. Staying socially connected and offering help to those in need can help you feel less helpless and more confident.
- Incorporate laughter into your day by scheduling phone calls with friends or watching comedy specials.
- Try to avoid procrastination—getting in over your head when it comes to work will only make feelings of stress worse. Be kind to yourself, and don’t expect more of yourself than you can do. Your productivity may be lower these days, and that’s okay. Do what you can.
- Don’t hide your feelings—talk to trusted friends and family members about what you’re feeling.
- Seek professional help if you are having trouble managing your anxiety.
How Managing Coronavirus Stress Can Improve Your Leadership Skills
During this global pandemic and the changes it brings, we will have opportunities to grow and start anew, including in our professional lives. One bright spot that comes out of a collective struggle like this is more time to reflect. As leaders, we can use this time to further enhance our leadership skills.
Even under normal circumstances, 54 percent of executives feel they are held responsible for issues outside their control. However, it’s important to be able to rise to the challenges brought on by crisis to keep your organization successful. According to Gallup, there are four main ways to do this:
- Foster trust between yourself and your employees
- Show compassion
- Demonstrate stability
- Encourage hope
Another way that you can lead from a place of strength is to enhance your emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is your ability to understand other people, including what motivates or worries them. Emotional intelligence speaks to five personal and social competencies:
- Self-awareness – ability to recognize one’s own feelings
- Self-regulation – ability to control behaviors
- Self-motivation – ability to foster internal drive
- Social awareness – ability to use empathy
- Social skills – ability to form relationships
All of this leads to effective communication, an essential skill during times of crisis. To lead your team through the current uncertainty, it’s crucial that you are able to understand your own struggles. Once you can recognize certain feelings and behaviors in yourself, you will be able to recognize them in others. From there, you will be able to effectively lead your employees and your community through dark times.
Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” We believe that every person reading this article can not only to keep going, but emerge even stronger and more effective than before. If you find yourself in acute distress, you can reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-622-HELP. On the learning side, KnowledgeCity is here for you—we have selected two comprehensive courses that can help you boost your leadership skills even if you’re feeling overwhelmed with stress and anxiety.
The first course, “Emotional Intelligence,” will help you understand why it’s important to have high EQ and how it will set you apart from others who are struggling right now. You will learn to sharpen your emotional intelligence, leading you to better understand your own personal struggles due to COVID-19 and how you can process them. You can use that growth to be a better leader to your team.
The other course that will be helpful to you during this time is “Common Communication Challenges.” This course explores how to communicate well, even during times of high anxiety. If you’re wondering how to communicate all the lightning-speed changes to your employees during these strange times, this course will give you the confidence you need to speak clearly and directly to your worried employees.