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10 Ways to Reduce Anxiety During the Pandemic

Will Harris

Contributor

An awful lot of us suffer from anxiety in some form or another. Some of us have social anxiety; others are hypochondriacs. For people with anxiety, the arrival of a global epidemic spells trouble. Raised stress levels mean a lower immune system, and none of us need that right now. So, what can we do? Well, a lot, honestly. Especially if you’re working from home and practising self-isolation. Here are ten things that you can do right now to reduce your anxiety during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Build a stable daily routine

If you’re self-isolating or under quarantine, your routine has shifted and become unbalanced. This kind of disruption can lead to some anxious feelings. So, the very first thing you need to do is build yourself a new and stable daily routine. This means figuring out the best time to wake up and go to bed and stick to those times.

Guarantee yourself eight hours of solid sleep at the same time each day. Building a familiar and reliable routine is an important first step. Pick your mealtimes and stick to them as well.

If you’re working from home, organise yourself a work schedule and follow it. Fill your day up with tea and coffee breaks, time for hobbies, and a relaxing evening of book reading and TV watching. It’ll take a few days to figure out your schedule but, once you’re comfortable with it, keep it going.

Exercise and eat healthy

Gyms are closing and it’s hard to practice social distancing when you’re out jogging in the park. But exercise is important for keeping a healthy immune system, following a daily routine, and, most of all, easing your stresses.

If you’re worried about catching COVID-19 (or, indeed, any illness right now), you need to keep up a healthy immune system. That’s done with daily exercise and healthy eating. Try to eat more fruits, vegetables, and fish, and to eat a lot less sugar. Sugar is not good for anxiety.

Exercise isn’t just useful for building your physical health, but also your mental health. With some solid morning exercise, it can help set your day on a good path for dealing with feelings of anxiety. Alternatively, opt for exercising later in the day when anxiety strikes, and you need an outlet for it.

Start a new hobby

Now is the time to start a new hobby, or really dig into one that you’ve always been a casual enjoyer of. This will mean something different for each of us, but there are a lot of choices to pick from. One thing to keep in mind is that goal of reducing and easing your anxiety. This is what you should be considering when you pick your hobby.

What this means is picking a hobby that is mentally engrossing, something that takes time, absorbs your concentration and distracts you from your own personal worries as well as the urge to check your phone or the news. Video games are always a good outlet, or a new Netflix show that you can binge.

Consider building things like Lego or knitting. Take the time to get good at cooking or baking. Get through your reading backlog. This is the perfect time to dig into a 1000-page epic.

Learn a new skill

Like starting a new hobby, learning a new skill is all about stopping your mind from wandering into dark and scary places. But it also has the extra benefit of adding a new string to your bow.

Consider this: have you ever wanted to retrain with the goal of switching careers? Have you ever wanted to learn a new language with the hopes of moving abroad or using that language to get a better job? Now’s your chance. With websites like Skillshare and Masterclass, or just with learning apps and textbooks, you can learn something new from scratch without getting off the sofa.

Learn a new language. Start your own blog. Learn to code. Learn how to make YouTube videos and start your own channel. Do something you care about, that also feels like a hobby; something that distracts you but also makes you excited. Your anxieties will fall away and, all the while, you’re becoming a better you.

Enjoy some guilty pleasures

Keeping with the goal of distracting you from your anxieties and the things that cause them, take the time to enjoy your guilty pleasures. Learning a new skill or starting a new hobby can have some issues, like becoming frustrated or not having the money and the means to start. But your guilty pleasures are things that have always worked to distract you and make you happy, so dig into them.

This might be a TV show or a movie that isn’t high art, isn’t something you’d admit to loving, but it makes you happy. It might be a trashy book that you can read and reread ad nauseum. It might be bad 90s music that perks you up and puts you in a happy frame of mind. Whatever it is, do it to your heart’s content.

Have something to look after

This feeds into your daily routine but it also helps fight back against loneliness and isolation. If you’re able to, get yourself a small pet. If you don’t have a dog, now might not be the best time to get one. But anything that can live in your home permanently is ideal.

Anything from a cat to a houseplant and anything in-between: a hamster, gerbil, guinea pig, or even a rat. Even filling your home with a few plants or a tank full of fish will give you something that relies on you. There’s something moving and beautiful about this. It helps put your life in perspective.

This thing, be it a creature or a plant, needs your help and support every day. Nurturing something else gives you an added purpose and something to support you during your isolation.

Mute certain hashtags on Twitter

Onto the practical stuff. The first being social media. If you’re a Facebook user, be careful how you use it. Leave a group if it brings you no joy; mute or block friends who trigger your anxiety. Build a positive Facebook space that you know you can enjoy completely whenever you log in.

The same goes for Twitter. If you follow news outlets that only throw fear in your face, unfollow and mute them. Mute hashtags like #covid19 and #coronavirus. They don’t do you any good. You should control what news you see. Twitter doesn’t get to do that. Your feed should be a positive, inviting place. Curate your social media so that you aren’t afraid of it or made nervous by it.

Stay away from certain news sources

Not all news sources are good. And, while many of us choose our newspapers and networks based on our political leanings, there are some that are bad regardless of your politics. Tabloid papers should always be avoided, as should TV news networks like FOX News. These are not so much places of reliable news as they are scaremongers who feed off your fear. Don’t let them.

Mute them all on social media, avoid looking at them at the supermarket, and don’t be tempted to check their websites for updates on the virus. Stick to neutral, reputable news sources and do your research. And, even then, don’t get absorbed by it. Check daily for any updates and then shut it down.

Reach out to friends in a safe way

Feeling isolated and cut off from the world is a real danger right now. Thankfully, we live in an age of high-speed internet and a thousand different ways to stay connected to friends. One of those is the aforementioned social media which you can carefully curate to be exclusively filled with supportive friends and family. If you play video games, dig into some online gaming with friends. If you love Netflix, set up a Skype or Zoom call with friends and watch the same movie at the same time. If you’re a reader, start an online book club.

Your friends might be struggling with anxiety and depression; reach out to them often and check that they’re doing well. And ask them to do the same. Never feel like you have to be alone, especially right now. Reach out to people but do it responsibly. Use the internet.

See how you can help other people

One of the best ways to let go of your hypochondria and your anxieties is to put the focus on someone else. Worrying about getting sick and catching something can be all-encompassing. If you allow yourself, you can spend every minute of every day worrying about your own health. Instead, see how you can help other people right now.

If you have some spare money, send it to a friend who is struggling, or donate it to a charity that’s supporting people with the virus. If you’re feeling brave, you could even volunteer at a food bank or soup kitchen to support the most vulnerable people in your community. Or simply reach out to friends and check that they’re doing okay.

Spend your day emailing and messaging friends you barely speak to anymore and ask them how they’re doing. Put the focus on them and forget your own troubles for a while. It’ll make you feel better.

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