9 Things you can do to deal with your COVID-19 anxiety

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9 Things you can do to deal with your COVID-19 anxiety

The Covid-19 pandemic – just hearing the name sends a cold shiver  down your spine. As a researcher in lockdown, you might find yourself in the following scenario. At the beginning of this pandemic, you may have assumed that,  like most researchers, you’ve often had to work alone and so you are better equipped than others  to cruise through the situation. After a while, as the time spent in the house extended, you have begun to face new challenges in your academic work. So now you find yourself overwhelmed by work, anxious, and trying to find “the balance” between work and leisure time, even though you are in the comfort of your own house all the time. . Don’t worry – you may be working in isolation but you are definitely not alone. Many researchers are experiencing anxiety while trying to work from home during the COVID-19 lockdown.


Here are some tips to ease out your problems and help you cope with this distressful period:


1. Accept that it’s normal to feel anxious

Our reality has changed. Feeling overwhelmed and anxious is a common reaction to a world that has changed overnight. Even if we know all of this is temporary, the uncertainty makes it seem like a never ending story. Faced with the loss of normalcy in our lives, each one of us is feeling somewhat disconnected and disoriented. We fear how the changes might hit the economy and affect our research (fewer grants, tenure track harder to achieve). Under the circumstances, it’s important to acknowledge the negative emotions that seem to overwhelm us. According to David Kessler, a world-renowned expert on grief, “This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”


2. Don`t be hard on yourself

It is often not the situation itself that causes as much distress as what we think about it. We can`t do much about the COVID-19 situation besides diligently following the WHO guidelines. What we can do, however, is take care of our thoughts. Pushing ourselves too hard to be productive all day long, or indulging in negative thoughts about the lockdown and having to stay at home could manifest in unhealthy responses such as elevated levels of anxiety or the tendency to procrastinate, and is actually counter-productive. After all, you’re not a robot: there’s only so much you can expect from yourself under the current circumstances. Accepting that you will have good and bad days will give you peace of mind and help you cope with the situation more effectively.


3. Follow a daily routine 

You are facing a change in what it used to be your routine. It is easy to slip on the side of procrastination or to be caught up in your duties at home during these times. So coming up with a new daily routine will make your week more organized and will help you track your time and work. Creating and following a new routine takes time and practice, so don`t be hard on yourself if you don`t accomplish everything in your schedule right from the start. Also, make sure you keep some leeway between scheduled tasks as certain tasks might take longer than usual because of unforeseen situations.


4. Reduce exposure time to news

Even researchers can get affected by being overly exposed to the news, especially today, when we have to process a lot of information that comes our way. Consciously reduce the duration of your exposure to Covid-19 news. Devote a specific time each day to update yourself with the news, but restrict yourself from looking at it during the rest of the day.  You know the world is going through difficult times, you don`t have to be reminded of it every minute.


5. Engage in sports or exercise

When working from home, you may be in front of your laptop for hours: answering e-mails, planning new research projects, teaching, or just reading or browsing. It is important to not forget about your body. Be mindful of your posture, get some exercise. Go for a walk or run if your neighborhood’s lockdown restrictions permit this. It is a known fact that playing a sport or exercising boosts your physical and mental well-being. If you cannot go out, try to find an open space in your home: a balcony, terrace, or backyard to engage in some form of sport. If you don’t have access to an open area, try indoor activities such as table tennis, zumba, yoga, or even dance. There are a lot of available apps/videos to help you exercise.


6. Meditate

When we experience anxiety or stress, our breathing patterns are affected. This can reduce the level of oxygen entering our body, making us feel tired or short of breath. Meditation or breathing exercises can help you reduce anxiety and keep you breathing well. There are apps that help you meditate and relax. “Calm” is a popular app that helps with sleep, meditation, and relaxation.


7. Restrict your work time and space

When working from home, it is easy to overwork, unless you consciously separate your work time from your personal time. Now your office is in your own home, always with you. This is why it is important to set a time frame within which you should finish work. Also having a space dedicated only for your academic work will mentally help you distinguish your work from your personal life. Once your work time is over, make sure you move to other areas of your home for leisure and other activities.


8. Respect your body, get enough sleep and do something pleasant each day

To be productive your mind and body needs some rest. Respect your body and try to maintain the recommended sleeping hours.  


Also, for your well-being, it is important to reward yourself after a hard day’s work by doing something pleasant. This is a great time to rediscover an old passion or hobby. Doing something fun every day can take your mind off work and help you forget the COVID-19 related stressors for at least some time.


9. Stay connected

Stay connected with the people who matter to you, especially if you are alone, or working abroad. Find some time to keep in touch with your friends and family. This way you will feel reassured that you are not alone and will also make them feel happy and loved. If you are a researcher living with your family, take this time to enjoy your family time. You now have time to play that long-awaited game with your child or cook that special dinner for your spouse.


All in all, do remember to be kind to yourself! This time is hard for you, for me, for everyone! You are doing the best you can with the limited resources that you have during this lockdown and under the current circumstances, that is enough.


Related reading:

*Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

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Published on: Apr 24, 2020

PhD student and certified psychotherapist
See more from Ms. Iulia Cosa


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