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Coping with the anxiety of COVID-19

GRAPHIC: CHLOË FEHR
Coping with the anxiety of COVID-19
By Chloë Fehr

It goes without saying that COVID-19 has put a halt to life as we know it; everything has been altered and affected by the looming threat of the virus. Those in the medical field are working tirelessly every day despite their fear for their own health and safety, unemployment rates have spiked by almost 1% in the past month and small businesses deemed nonessential fear the possibility of being unable to reopen. Overall, COVID-19 has caused a strain on everyday life and increased anxiety for everyone, whether they are an essential worker, a healthcare professional, quarantined, or isolated at home. 


The situation can feel overwhelming and be anxiety-inducing, and especially for those stuck in isolation with their thoughts and pre-existing mental illness, COVID-19 is putting a lot of pressure and strain on mental health. In March, 47% of surveyed adults reported negative mental health impacts from self-isolation and concerns about COVID-19. There is the constant fear of catching or spreading the virus, the concern of the safety of loved ones, stress over the state of the country and how the government is handling the crisis, and the loneliness that comes from social distancing and social isolation. For those remaining at home, there is pressure to increase productivity and start new projects with the extended time spent indoors. However, this can feel unrealistic to those who feel overwhelmed with COVID-19 anxiety, current workload, and other preexisting mental illnesses. 


At the moment, there is no escaping the reality of COVID-19, and in order to deal with these newfound anxieties, we need to develop ways to cope. The best thing we can do during this time is to take care of ourselves, both mentally and physically.  Coping comes in many forms: through distractions, creating, self-improvement, self-maintenance, staying connected, and helping others when possible, to name a few. Whatever works best for you is the best way you can take care of yourself during this time. 


Although this list is the tip of the iceberg, here are some possible ways to cope with the stress of COVID-19:


If you’re feeling overwhelmed, some ideas for how to distract yourself from the situation:
1. Put down your phone for a while if you know it's a source of stress.
2. Be active! Move, stretch, dance, jump rope, run, bike, walk, do yoga (you can use apps like Peloton, Gaia Yoga, or Zombies Run!).
3. Try to get outside if you can, being sure you’re maintaining healthy social distancing practices (picnic for one, walk down a trail or street you usually don’t go on).
4. Listen to music.
5. Clean, reorganize, or redecorate your room.
6. Listen to podcasts.
7. Talk to a friend. 
8. Sing!
10. Dance alone in your room.
11. Play a board game with those you are with at home or online.
12. Complete a puzzle.
13. Write a pen pal (I found this app that slowly sends digital letters around the world so you have to wait to get it like a real letter; it’s a really fun way to connect with new people).
14. Do some spring cleaning!
15. Watch a movie or tv show you love.
16. Watch a new movie or tv show you haven’t seen before (I highly recommend Sex Education and never Have I Ever on Netflix and You, Me and the Apocolypse on Dailymotion).
17. Get dressed in an outfit that makes you happy. 
18. Wear an outfit you might not wear normally.
19. Play with/take care of your pets. 
20. Take a moment to take a few deep breaths (Headspace and Calm are two great meditation apps).
21. Play your favorite video game/spend time on your favorite app like Youtube or Tiktok (some of my favorite Tiktokers right now are @lgquinny, @cowboynamedriley, and @arbacn).


Some ways to create: (it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece! Create for the sake of creating)
22. Film a Youtube video.
23. Record a podcast.
24. Paint.
25. Draw.
26. Scribble.
27. Sculpt.
28. Color.
29. Collage
30. Knit/crochet/sew.
31. Upcycle old clothes.
32. Start writing that poem, story, novel, screenplay, article or musical you’ve been meaning to write.
33. Work on an old art or writing project you haven’t touched in a while
34. Write songs/make music.
35. Make a zine.
36. Make new playlists for yourself or for friends. Here’s one I made.
37. Cook or bake something you haven’t made before.
38. Play an instrument.


Ways to work on bettering yourself and to keep mental and physical health: 
40. Journal, self reflect or meditate.
41. Go to an online therapy session or find a therapist to talk to (Pride Counseling, BetterHelp, and TalkSpace are all highly rated).
42. Drink more water.
43. Reach out to professors and advisors if you’re having difficulty adjusting to online school.  
44. Try to be more patient with yourself.
45. Exercise regularly, even if it's as simple as going on a walk.
46. Learn a new skill.
47. Practice an old skill.
48. Establish a routine or schedule you can try to follow, whether daily, weekly, or monthly.
49. That being said, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t meet your expectations about that day; there’s always tomorrow.
50. Go on Duolingo or Memrise and learn a new language.
51. Work on setting a regular and healthy sleep schedule.
52. Reach out if you or someone you know needs assistance
53. Learn about someone else’s experience. Learn about a new religion, life in a different country, or someone else’s way of life. 
54. Take care of your body; wash your face, brush your teeth, take a shower, take your vitamins and medicine. 
55. Try to practice one new healthy habit.
56. Make a list of things in your life that you can control and focus on those, not what's out of control.
57. Take breaks/rests/naps when you need them. 


Ways to stay involved in and assist your community: 
58. Make and donate facemasks.
59. Write and contribute to news or writing outlets.
60. Give extra food to a local food bank.
61. Order from local businesses that are at risk (or etsy or other small businesses, I love to buy zines and earrings on Etsy).
62. If you are financially able, donate to worthy shelters, charities and organizations.
63. Support the arts by watching online theater and film festivals or order/commision work from independent artists. 
64. If emotionally able, be open to talking to other people about their stress and anxieties.
65. Offer to get groceries or other essential goods for people that cannot, like the elderly or immunocompromised. 


Ways to stay connected:
66. Watch movies or play games with friends together on Zoom, Netflix Party, or other video call applications. 
67. Regularly Facetime, text, call and check in with friends.
68. Write letters to friends (USPS has really cute stamps)
69. Reach out to friends or family members you haven’t talked to in a while and want to reconnect with. 


While these are ways to cope and alleviate stress, these are not meant to be a solution for clinical anxiety, depression, or other illnesses or situations that cannot be solved with simple measures or distractions. It is, however, a list to hopefully inspire hope and outlets in a time of crisis. While there is pressure to take advantage of this time by being productive, you don’t have to be productive or make something great out of this time inside; the best thing you can do is take care of yourself and make sure those around you are taking care as well.

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