While it seems like the entire world is panicked about Covid-19, some people are obsessively worried about illness on a daily basis. That’s called health anxiety. And mass hysteria doesn’t really help those of us who feel anxious about our health on a regular basis feel very comforted. So if you’re struggling with the anxiety provoked by news outlets and the panicked stockpiling of toilet paper, here are some tips for you.
1. Limit social media use
This is especially true of all those Facebook groups you’re in! Social media is a terrible outlet for getting helpful and accurate news updates, and it’s an even worse place for people with anxiety. If you’re feeling stressed out by the current health crisis, limit your social media use to only 5-10 minutes every day. Or better yet, delete the app and don’t look at it again until the panic is over.
2. Limit news checking
This includes your obvious sources of media like websites, TV, and social media. But you should also limit your own checking of your email, texts, voicemails, etc. for any updates from your work, children’s school, or organizations whose closures might impact you. It’s tempting to refresh your email every 5 minutes to see if your office has closed down for the month, but try to limit your email and other notification checking to a reasonable amount. Set a goal that seems appropriate for your circumstances and stick to it. Maybe that’s only checking your email twice per day or maybe that’s checking it every 3 hours. You be the judge of the frequency that makes sense for you, but stick to your own limit and don’t obsessively refresh your notifications.
3. Journal about your worst-case scenario
If you struggle with health anxiety, then you have probably already analyzed some worst-case scenarios. In the case of Covid-19, maybe your worst case is you or a loved one becoming gravely ill; or it might be fears around how this crisis will impact your job or finances. Take 15 minutes to write those fears down on paper and make sure to take note of the emotions and physical sensations you notice while doing so (eg. fear, worry, pain in the chest, difficulty breathing, etc.). When you’re done, close your eyes and take 10-15 really deep breaths. Often our minds just need us to take the time to notice our fears and feelings before it will allow the anxiety to calm down.
Kelsey Fyffe is an anxiety and eating disorder specialist in Houston, TX. She works with teens and adults in person and virtually to help them get out of their heads, stop intrusive thoughts, and start relaxing and enjoying their lives with ease. Check out her Instagram @live.mindfully for more tips on managing anxiety.