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How to handle coronavirus anxiety, according to a psychologist

Coronavirus has changed life in our country (and the entire world) these past few weeks. The virus, also known as COVID-19, was first identified in Wuhan, China back in December 2019. Since then, it's spread to Italy, Japan, France, the United States and more countries around the globe. 

People have a higher likelihood of contracting the disease if they come in close contact (less than six feet) with someone who is infected (you can inhale the bacteria into your nose or mouth where it has the potential to enter your lungs). The disease is capable of spreading when people congregate in large groups—that's why you may have noticed school closures, concert cancellations and suspended worship services recently.

While the coronavirus seems scary, it's important to remain calm as the world tries to resolve the issue. In the meantime, licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Amy Boyers gives her top three tips on how to reduce your anxiety amid the chaos.

Tip 1: Consider what is in and out of your control.

"You can wash your hands, limit your time online looking at the news, educate yourself about the illness and elect to stay away from certain situations where exposure risk is greater," Dr. Boyers explains. "For the things you can't control, you must deal with the feelings you have about them. It's helpful to recognize when you're perhaps thinking in terms that are too extreme and catastrophic. We must accept that there is risk in life, now and always. Wishing that reality would change or telling ourselves that we cannot accept this risk only makes it more difficult to find and use coping skills that make us feel better." 

Tip 2: Try mindful meditation.

"Basic deep breathing is always a great place to start, since it will put your body in a state of calm," says Dr. Boyers. "There are lots of great resources online and in the App Store, even on YouTube." Headspace and Calm apps are a great place to start! Can't get your zen on without your mind wandering? Acknowledge those thoughts, then "simply bring yourself back to the present moment," recommends Dr. Boyers.

Tip 3: Practice gratitude.

"Take a moment to consider three things you feel grateful for," suggests Dr. Boyers. "At the end of each day, write them down. They don't even have to be major—they can be as simple as I'm grateful that I had a good conversation with my friend." In a time where we feel surrounded by fear and negativity, taking time to be positive and reflect on the things that make you smile may bring you one step closer to finding inner peace. 

Our final tip? Talk to informed people (parents, teachers, doctors) about your feelings and actively seek professional mental health support if you find that your anxiety continues to ramp up. If you are already under the care of a mental health professional, work closely with that person so they can help your navigate this unusual time.


You can find Dr. Amy Boyers at her website here.

by Carrie Berk | 3/16/2020