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How to cope with pandemic fear and anxiety?

1. Try to observe your anxiety, fear or stress (depending on how you call it). Think about what makes you feel afraid or anxious. Do you know when you are emotionally triggered? What is causing those emotions? What are the factors that affect your wellbeing? (e.g. following the news, monitoring the epidemiological situation, frequent discussions about the possibility of getting sick)

2. Try to find reasons for your fear or anxiety. In times of a pandemic, all emotions are justified, including experiencing fear and anxiety at the same time - because there is both a real threat of getting infected (FEAR) and at the same time  the fear over how we / our loved ones will cope in a potential dangerous situation (ANXIETY). Think about what is a real threat to you or your loved ones. Try to rationally assess how big the threat is.

3. Schedule “worry time” to think about what bothers you and what you are afraid of (as if you were arranging a worrying session :) e.g. 30 minutes a day. It is better to spend time worrying during the day, then at night when you are trying to fall asleep.

4. If you start to think about the risk of being infected by the virus Covid 19 during your university class, try to postpone your worrying. Think: I'll worry about that later. I scheduled  "worry time" at a different time.

5. Pinpoint a specific thought or racing thoughts that make you start to feel scared or anxious. Remember that the way you think affects how you feel.

6. Tell the worrying thoughts, “STOP” (it works better than somebody telling you to stop thinking about it). Try thinking, “It doesn’t lead anywhere”, “My worrying right now doesn’t make me feel better”, “I better focus on something else”, “I will try to diverge my attention to something else”, “I will do something that makes me happy”.

7. If you’re experiencing thoughts like “What if I get sick?”, “What if I die?”, “What if my loved ones get sick?”, look for proof that says it will happen. Then, look for proof of the opposite. Finally, try to come up with an alternative thought, e.g. “Maybe I will get sick or maybe not. I don’t know that, but I don’t have to worry about it now. What I am doing (listening to the health experts, keeping social distance) protects me from getting sick, but I can’t be sure of anything. However, in this moment, I’m focusing on the fact that I’m healthy and I may enjoy what I have.”

8. Being in the moment – try to redirect your thoughts and your attention to here and now, e.g., a conversation, a physical activity, watching the nature changing, or maybe an online class you’re in :) Watch your thoughts carefully. If you feel like you’re not really present during the conversation, like you’re stuck inside your head, try redirecting your attention to the person you’re talking to and focus on the topic at hand.
Accept the fact that you don’t always have control over what is going on and you can’t predict everything. Sometimes – or even often – you have to accept the lack of control as simply a part of life. So work on your tolerance for uncertainty (about the future, about what’s going to happen, and how your life is going to look like).

10. Start practicing some kind of relaxation technique, breathing exercises or mindfulness. On the Internet – with help from Doctor Google – you can find a lot of materials and videos on how to start. You may first pay attention to your breathing, then move to conscious breathing—inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Make time for this every day, three times a day, for 10 breaths.


Author: Marzena Trytek

Translation: Marta Kubisiak & Marzena Trytek