The world is a stressful place right now. The coronavirus pandemic has got people panic-buying, desperately scrolling social media platforms for the latest information and worrying about conspiracy theories. It is a lot to take in.
Around 264 million people around the world suffer from an anxiety disorder, with it being more common in women than in men. The World Health Organization (WHO) also lists obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in its top 10 most disabling conditions as measured by lost income and decreased quality of life.
So what steps can we take to reduce the chance of COVID-19 having a detrimental effect on our mental health?
Limit your news intake
We all want to be up to date, but you need downtime – especially from what is going on out there right now.
Limit the time you spend on social media and news outlets. This will give you some mental space for other things. But be strict with yourself; it will not be easy. Mute keywords on social media if you need to.
Do some exercise
Exercise has long been shown to have a beneficial effect on mental health and it is no different now.
Even if you are confined to your home, you can still take a stroll around the garden, up and down your stairs or even do “chairobics” – exercises for less mobile people which can be done while sitting in a chair – to a piece of your favourite music.
Get some fresh air
Being outdoors has lots of health benefits, but increasingly it is being used to help manage anxiety and mood disorders.
If they are still accessible, woodlands and open parks are among the few places where you are less likely to catch the coronavirus so, if you can, find a time when it is likely to be less crowded and go for a walk. And try not to look at your phone.
Ration your worry time
If you find yourself falling into repetitive habits because you are fretting about coronavirus, limit yourself to the number of times you can wash your hands or clean surfaces. Limit your “worry time” over COVID-19 to a particular hour of each day and then try not to think about it for the rest of the day.
Above all, keep reminding yourself that most people who get COVID-19 will have only mild symptoms and will make a full recovery.