5 ways to cope with coronavirus anxiety

I’ve never been a newshound but in the past two weeks, Brad Pitt in Thelma & Louise couldn’t take me away from the endless scroll of my Twitter feed. With the coronavirus pandemic seemingly changing by the minute, I’ve spent more time online this month than I have in years. I feel a weird mix of wanting to know more, more, more, and conversely craving the days when all we talked about was Baby Shark, Pokemon Go, and whether a dress was blue or black (for the record – it’s blue, I tell ya). As a result, my anxiety has hit the roof.

Even though it’s pretty hard in the face of a global pandemic, I’m making a real effort not to fall into the exhausting anxiety spiral by changing how I consume news and how much free space I allow the coronavirus to occupy in my head. Here’s a few ways I’ve been doing that:

1. Choose who you follow carefully.

Social media is what you make of it. It’s not compulsory, there’s no one you need to follow, and you can use it however you like. At the minute, social media is a lifeline for not only staying informed but keeping in touch with everyone else who’s doing their bit to stay at home. It’s also a major source of misinformation.

If you get your news on Twitter, only follow accounts that reliably share fact-based information, such as RTE News and the New York Times. To reduce your chances of a panic attack each time you open your Twitter app, scrub your TL of speculation and unfollow anyone who shares mindless Whatsapp rumours or scaremongering opinion pieces. 

2. Talk about something else.

I feel a weird mix of wanting to talk about something else, but at the same time nothing else seems important. Everyone has coronavirus fatigue at this stage. 

If your social media feeds exist to remind everyone that this is a Very Bad Time, either get off the internet for a while or share something else (side note: I’ve lost a lot of followers lately each time I tweet something non-virus related so I guess some people are annoyed seeing “trivial” things in their timeline *insert shrug emoji*). It seems rude or like I live in my own bubble, but I no longer reference “these strange times” in email exchanges.  Talking incessantly about “what if” does nothing for your own anxiety or anyone else’s. Try to think of other things you’d talk about before the pandemic. Anything but Brexit though.

3. Accept the reality.

No, I don’t mean a Vanessa Hudgens-style “we’re all gonna die anyway”, but I’ve come to accept that covid-19 is not going anywhere fast. Now that I’ve accepted this, I no longer obsessively follow the daily updates on new cases, and I don’t tune into the health service briefing each evening before bed (and then wonder why my dreams are such a wild ride). I’ve also accepted that a bit of coronavirus anxiety is normal and understandable under the circumstances. I just don’t want it to take over my life.

Ireland is currently under a lockdown and, although none of us like it, I’ve accepted that this is going to be our lives for potentially a long time. It’s for the greater good of us all, but especially people more vulnerable than I am, and I can’t argue with that. Fixating on not being able to go shopping or for drinks after work won’t make this end any quicker. I know it’s a cliché but this too shall pass.

4. Be thankful for what you’ve got.

At the time of writing this, 71 people have died in Ireland, 103 are in ICU, and 38,000 have died after contracting coronavirus worldwide. Thousands of Irish people have lost their jobs. With another recession looming, it’s really hard to see any positives at the minute, but nothing going on in my life can compare to the heartache others are experiencing.

Each day I just write down what I’m thinking about for 15 minutes and get all my worries out onto the page. Then I just let it go and get on with my job for the next 8 hours. If you wake up, briefly forget what’s happening, and then fall into a horrible slump, refocus your thoughts by thinking of 5 things you’re thankful for.

5. Tune out.

I’m mixing my acceptance of reality with a steady mix of escape from reality. TikTok has given me some of the best laughs of the year. I’m listening to lots of non-current affairs podcasts and rekindling my love of music that reminds me of a better, less anxious time. I’ll be sharing my pandemic reading list soon (watch this space!) and I’ve started writing again, after just about giving up on it.

There’s lots of things you can do to distract yourself – take an online class in something you’ve always been curious about, learn the Renegade, or – like everyone else on social media – wax lyrical about your newfound sourdough-making skills. I know how cheesy this sounds but you gotta find some light wherever you can get it.


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