I will start by mentioning that I have often struggled with anxiety and have experienced debilitating episodes in my early adulthood. I am well versed in how difficult anxiety is to cope with on an everyday level. And when there is a global threat to health and society, anxiety can spike even higher.
Everyone's experience of anxiety will be different and on the whole, it is important to recognise the diversity of human reactions that can emerge to the same situation. More than ever it is so important to be kind, to ourselves, and then to those around us.
This "crisis anxiety" is unfolding quickly with the rapid spread of coronavirus around the world, but it's a feeling that has become familiar for many of us already feeling the weight of the climate crisis. The recent bushfires in Australia was an example of how anxiety can easily travel across state and national borders. And as the impacts of climate damage become more apparent, it's important we all start to consider how to manage anxiety during crises.
In my opinion, everyone reaches a point of panic with corona - it usually results in a day of deep Googling, an overwhelming desire to control and isolate yourself, at its worst it results in a sense of impending doom that the world as we know it is ending and there is nothing you can do.
Here are my tips on what to do when corona anxiety gets you:
- There is a lot of time to work right now as many of us are housebound, but there is also time to rest. Which during a health crisis, is important. Take this time to rest and recover and don't feel pressured to be constantly creating. Remember that it's okay to use this time however you need.
- Stay informed, but don't be afraid to limit your news intake. Maybe you need to set aside a half hour in the morning and night to look at news and stick to this, or limit yourself to a certain amount of time per hour. Trusted sources are key to reducing fear and overstimulation, if you just want the facts then steer towards government sources. For some this might be state health websites, social media feeds or even a public news outlet like the ABC in Australia.
- Anxiety is felt more intensely when you are alone with your feelings. Being at home may create a sense of physical isolation but sharing your anxieties, and your optimism with friends and family is made easier with social media. Already I've started to video chat friends while I make breakfast or call my brother while I fold the washing and the more I share my fears, the closer we feel and the smaller my fears seem.
Note: If you want to chat to a friend about your anxieties, it's a good idea to check in with them first. They might not be in the headspace to take on your thoughts and emotions.
- Getting out of ordinary routine is a proven breeding ground for innovation.The breaking down of society as we know it has meant that ideas and solutions are needed quickly. When the worst of the crisis is over, we will have to rebuild, and it is a great time to build a society that is more socially conscious, more appreciative of our resources, and more willing to work together to preserve humanity and the Earth.
- Keep moving - even though it's usually the last thing I want to do when I'm caught in an anxiety slump, exercise and movement are one of the proven ways to get the endorphins pumping. Getting out of your head and into your body is a great way to keep yourself present. Physical distancing has closed down gyms and made group exercise difficult for the time being, but there are plenty of ways we can exercise indoors - whether it be through an app or online classes.
- Optimism is key: the world will go on whether it continues as normal or not. This is a time to keep lightness and humour and joy in daily activities as much as possible. This could be as small as indulging in a hobby you have wanted to try, like learning to code, or mend clothes or paint for the sake of it. While being away from work isn't a choice many have right now, it doesn't mean that we shouldn't look to small pleasures.
It's okay to feel anxious and scared right now - the world is changing so quickly and it feels like each day could suddenly take us in a completely different direction. What is important is keeping your sense of self and purpose in this hard time, you are not your worries and the world will go on. This is your chance to remember what it is that makes living on this planet worth fighting for.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact:
- Crisis text line text CONNECT to 741741
By Madeleine Achenza
Madeleine is currently studying journalism at the University of Technology Sydney. She is hoping to start her career in environmental communication with a focus on bringing communities together despite their differences to preserve the beauty of our natural world.