Advertising

How to Cope with COVID Anxiety And Stress

Advertising
How to Cope with COVID Anxiety And Stress

Do you find yourself increasingly agitated whenever you consume news regarding COVID-19? Do you often wonder—whenever you get a glimpse of your friends’ seemingly productive lives through their social media posts—if you’re the only one who isn’t thriving during this pandemic?

If you’ve been feeling a lot more anxious or stressed lately, let me tell you that this is not unusual. You are not alone in feeling this way.

As COVID-19 swept across the country, upending plans, and routines, it left a trail of uncertainty in its wake—enough to cause some mental health issues that need to be addressed.

In fact, according to a recent CDC report on mental health, anxiety and depression are on the rise in the US, with the national rate of anxiety tripling in the second quarter compared to the prior-year quarter (from 8.1% to 25.5%) and depression almost quadrupling (from 6.5% to 24.3%) from a year ago.[1]

Those numbers, along with the far-reaching effects of the pandemic in our personal and professional lives, are certainly cause for concern. So, here are some ways to cope with COVID anxiety and stress.

Deal With It Immediately

You might be tempted to downplay or ignore how you feel, or perhaps you haven’t even realized how anxious or stressed you’ve been until now.

However, consider the impact on your overall well-being if you continue to sweep these issues under the rug. Unfortunately, your anxiety and stress aren’t going to vanish by wishing them away—much like COVID won’t just magically disappear.

Advertising

You need to avoid the trap of the normalcy bias or that intuitive feeling that you can just fast-forward through the difficult parts of this year or that things will soon get back to how they were pre-COVID.[2]

The normalcy bias is one of over a hundred dangerous judgment errors that scholars in cognitive neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics like myself call cognitive biases.[3] They result from a combination of our evolutionary background and specific structural features in how our brains are wired.

Instead, we should adapt to the long haul of battling COVID-19 and, with that, dealing with anxiety and depression now and not later. Just think of how your productivity, peace of mind, as well as personal and professional relationships will receive a boost when you choose to tackle the problem head-on.

Anxious and Stressed? Address These Needs Now

Most probably, a lot of the things that are making you anxious or stressed have to do with the uncertainty of the times. You probably feel like you have no control over your life, and this perceived helplessness might lead you to blow even the smallest of issues out of proportion.

There are things within your control, however. And securing these will likely provide a sense of comfort and even purpose—something that everyone sorely needs during these nerve-wracking times.

You’ve probably heard of Abraham Maslow’s theory of human motivation and the pyramid of needs based on his work. Maslow proposed that certain fundamental needs have to be met so that people can stay motivated.[4]

Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman updated Maslow’s theory with more recent research, and his revised model shows that humans need the following to feel secure and motivated:[5]

Advertising

Safety

Let’s talk about physical safety. Make sure that you and your loved ones can stay in a safe place for months at a time in case of a major COVID outbreak in your area. You should be able to shelter in place considering the waves of infections and restrictions that we are facing as we wait for a vaccine.

While unlikely, it pays to prepare for a realistic pessimistic scenario. That means having 2 months of basic food and cleaning supplies, along with any necessary medications. To prevent supply disruptions, consider buying such goods in bulk from specialized online vendors rather than emptying the shelves in your local grocery store. It’s both more responsible and cheaper.

Keep in mind as well that many companies (likely including yours as well) and organizations have shifted to a remote work model. You may have to telecommute for a while, even for the long term, depending on the business direction your company takes. This means more time spent indoors, so make sure that it’s a space where you can work without feeling unsafe.

Connection to Others

Your connection with your loved ones and community is extremely important if you want to overcome COVID anxiety. Maintaining it requires you to pay attention to several things.

First, consider your immediate connections with members of your household. When it comes to these connections, it’s better to anticipate and work out issues in advance rather than have them blow up later on.[6] If you have a romantic partner in your household, you’ll have to figure out how to interact healthily given that you’re together 24/7.

The same holds true for other members of your family. If you have children who are home from school or university, you’ll need to figure out how to deal with them being cooped up inside.

You’ll also need to keep in touch with their schools to get updates on online school work. Having these updates will also provide a clearer picture of how your children’s schooling should be handled – one less stressful thing off your list.

Advertising

A lot more thought should be given into dealing with older adults over 60 or anyone with underlying health conditions in your household (including yourself if you fit either category).

Since they have a higher chance of contracting COVID, you and other members of your household need to take serious measures to prevent them from getting sick. This means being more careful than you usually would pre-pandemic, given that over half of those who get the virus have no or light symptoms.

Second, consider your loved ones who aren’t part of your household. You and your romantic partner might not be staying in the same house. Depending on how vulnerable to COVID you and other members of your household might be, you might choose to have a socially distant type of relationship or you might choose to take the risk of physical intimacy. No matter what you choose, you have to make this decision consciously rather than casually.[7]

The same principle applies to your friends. Since social distancing recommendations and preferences would mean that you can’t (or might opt not to) have a beer with them or meet for lunch in person, you’ll need to figure out other ways to stay connected. This means interacting and spending time with them virtually for the next few months, maybe years.

The same goes for your community activities: faith-based groups, clubs, nonprofit activism, and so on. You’ll need to have a go-to online routine in case restrictions are tightened again.

Given the current waves of restrictions and lockdowns, it’s best to figure out what social arrangement works for you and your connections now, rather than later. While different US states have different social distancing guidelines, these can change depending on the severity of virus outbreaks.[8]

And remember, keeping your friendships and community connections strong will provide even more comfort and stability to you during this pandemic. This will help you deal with COVID anxiety better.

Advertising

Self-Esteem

Last but not least, you need to address and secure your self-esteem, which refers to your self-confidence, self-respect, and sense of mastery over your fate.

Making plans for how you want to live your life during and after this pandemic will help you boost your sense of control and confidence, which is a great way to address stress and anxiety. You’ll also want to think about other areas where you can improve in this time of restrictions and limitations.

For instance, being at home offers the perfect opportunity to pick up or enhance new skills. You can try learning how to cook those dishes you’ve kept bookmarked for the longest time, or pick up some coding skills, or learn to play an instrument. Pair your efforts with joining an online hobbyist group and you’ll build even more meaningful connections, which can only ever be a good thing.

Addressing your fundamental needs is empowering and can help you develop a sense of mastery over your environment. When done intentionally and consistently, it is a great counterpoint to stress and anxiety during this pandemic and beyond.

Conclusion

There is no way to forecast exactly how this pandemic will end and how much more of our lives will be upended along the way. That’s why it’s normal for us to have COVID anxiety and more stress during this pandemic.

However, while the uncertainty this thought brings can cause varying degrees of concern and worry, there are steps you can take to address your fundamental needs so that you can defend yourself from anxiety and stress.

More Tips to Overcome COVID Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Max Bender via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

Cognitive neuroscientist and behavioral economist; CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts; multiple best-selling author

What Is Loss Aversion And How To Avoid This Bias What Is Abstract Thinking And How To Develop It 8 Effective Ways To Make Hard Decisions Easier 8 Daily Habits To Develop Emotional Intelligence How to Cope with COVID Anxiety And Stress

Trending in Mental Wellness

1 5 Ways to Limit the Stress of Working from Home 2 How to Stop Being Anxious And Regain Your Calm 3 How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time 4 Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why? 5 Does Depression Make You Tired And How?

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Published on January 26, 2022

5 Ways to Limit the Stress of Working from Home

Advertising
5 Ways to Limit the Stress of Working from Home

Ditching your commute to work from home might sound like the path to pure happiness. Yet, research shows that it’s not quite as pleasurable in practice.

Gallup’s research on working from home stress conducted between April and September 2020 shows that almost a third of remote workers are stressed.[1] They’re so stressed, in fact, that they say they are always in or near a state of burnout.

That’s especially concerning because occupational burnout can lead to everything from disengagement to despair. And with the Great Resignation in full swing, employers can’t afford to lose the skills or input of talented staff members.

Of course, virtual working doesn’t have to feel like a burden or become an addiction. The key is to figure out how to balance the demands of a job with the demands of a household.

Whether you became a remote worker by chance or choice, you shouldn’t have to live under undue stressors. Apply some of the following advanced tips to keep your working from home stress from getting out of hand.

Advertising

Here are five innovative strategies for lowering work from home stress.

1. Set Tech Boundaries for Everyone in Your Family

When you work virtually, you’re bound to have off-the-chart screen time. If you’re a parent, your school-age children may spend many hours daily learning on their laptops and tablets. Consequently, make sure everyone gets away from their digital devices by setting up “techless time.”

For instance, consider turning dinner into a tech-free zone, or set aside time every evening where all your family members can recharge their phones while they recharge their spirits. Reading a book, getting some exercise, or just relaxing away from technology allows you to unplug and unwind.

Be aware that middle schoolers and younger teens won’t necessarily like these rules. That’s where buying them a phone with limited capabilities can give you a parental assist. Gabb Wireless offers a thoughtfully engineered kids’ phone built without access to social media sites or the internet.[2] It’s a streamlined, practical way for you to worry less about your children being tempted to spend day and night online.

2. Stop Answering Work-Related Pings When You’re”Off the Clock”

You’re kicking back in bed with a book at 10:30 p.m. when you hear an alert on your phone. It’s your boss, asking about an assignment. Your stomach starts to churn, and your head begins to ache. Is it better to answer the call of duty (even though it could make you feel overwhelmed) or put off responding until the morning?

Advertising

Unfortunately, our always-on culture promotes the belief that it’s rude to ignore texts, emails, DMs, and calls. This can lead to us feeling guilty for playing with our kids, talking with our spouse, or just living a personal life free from corporate distractions.

It can be hard to turn off the nagging suspicion that your supervisor will think less of you if you set boundaries. It’s critical to your mental health, though.

Start by telling your team when you won’t be available each day—then stick to whatever you say. Just because your house is where you do your work doesn’t mean you have to be office-ready 24/7.

3. Set Up a Specific Area for Your Home Office

The main reason for working from home stress is the feeling that you’re “on-call” no matter where you go in your house. One way to delineate your personal and professional spaces is by physically setting up at least one office area.

You don’t have to set aside a whole room as your workspace, either. Some people have found success by creating an office nook in a large walk-in closet, the corner of a room, or an area of a finished basement. The point is to have a spot that’s designed for work.

Advertising

Be sure to fix up your home workspace so it’s pleasant and welcoming. Have plenty of light and decorate it attractively. You’ll feel at ease going to it when you need to get some tasks done. Plus, your household members will learn that when you’re at your remote desk, you’re technically on the job. Consequently, they’ll think twice before interrupting and causing you the frustration of having to constantly switch gears.

4. Hire a Babysitter to Give You a Break

As a parent, you can’t do it all no matter what you’ve heard or told yourself. As much as you might like to be an attention mom or dad to your younger kids, you can’t always do that and be a dependable worker at the same time. So, take a deep breath and check out the online help-wanted pages for a babysitter.

Depending on your arrangement and the age of your kids, you might only need a babysitter occasionally. Look for one who’s knowledgeable, reliable, and flexible. Be sure that the babysitter you choose has enough experience and check all referrals.

You can’t imagine the relief you’ll feel knowing that your children aren’t going to burst in on an important Zoom client call. Yes, it will cost you some money to invest in a babysitter. But if it makes you more productive and reduces your working from home stress, it’s worth a try.

(Side note: Have pets who crave tons of attention? A loving pet sitter can serve the same purpose.)

Advertising

5. Allow Yourself to Use Up Sick Leave

In an office setting, employees who feel unwell frequently call in sick and use their PTO. Among the work-from-home crowd, you see a bit of difference. Lots of ailing virtual workers force themselves to slog through the day because they don’t feel good about using up their sick leave.

According to a poll released in November 2020 and evaluated by Study Finds, two-thirds of remote workers remained hesitant to use up sick leave on anything less than Covid.[3]

In other words, you might feel compelled to plug on despite aches and pains. After all, you’re home so it doesn’t matter, right? Wrong, as it turns out. Presenteeism—the act of being on the job but not being mentally focused on your responsibilities—soars among the sick. It doesn’t do anyone any good to press ahead if your body and mind require much-needed rest.

If getting as close to a stress-free existence is your goal, do what’s necessary for your health. PTO is meant to be used—even when you’re a WFH team member.

Final Thoughts

It’s not practical to expect that you can totally eliminate all your stressors as a remote worker. But you can reevaluate your choices to improve how balanced you feel at the end of each day. You can start by following these five tips on how to limit the stress of working from home.

Advertising

More Tips on Dealing With Work Stress

Featured photo credit: Avi Richards via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next