Managing anxiety during COVID-19

<Back to managing mental health problems and symptoms

Possible challenges they face

  • Feelings of anxiety can increase and become unmanageable, as we worry about the health and safety of ourselves and our loved ones. Uncontrollable worry and catastrophic fear can exacerbate (or make worse) existing daily stress, which significantly affects day-to-day life.

Managing symptoms

  • Identify and Write down your thoughts. Writing down your thoughts and worries on a piece of paper can help you to distance yourself from your worries and can also help you to organise your thoughts.
  • Try to shift your focus. Focus on your senses to try to move your attention away from your worries. Notice the details of what you can see, touch, smell, hear, or taste, as this can help you to ground yourself back into the present moment and help you to gain some clarity in your thinking.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation practice. Practising major muscle contraction and relaxation can help you to relax tense muscles and reduce feelings of anxiety.
  • Breathing and mindfulness exercise. There are available resources online that you could follow to practise breathing exercise and mindfulness, such as Headspace and Newlife.330.
  • Take a break and switch off from social media and the news.
  • When we are feeling anxious, we tend to focus on the negatives, which only makes us feel more anxious. Try to focus on the facts and what you can do to keep you and your loved ones safe and well.

Managing overwhelming emotions

  • It is okay to not be okay, and it is normal to feel overwhelmed during these difficult times. Reassure yourself that your feelings and emotions are valid.
  • Listen to music that calms you
  • Practice breathing exercises, slowly breath in and breath out through your nostrils, notice how the air enters and exits your lungs.
  • Write down your emotions and thoughts on a piece of paper and throw it away

Managing a crisis situation

  • Managing a panic attack
    • Find a quiet place, try to slow your breathing by taking long, deep breaths until you start to feel calmer. Remind yourself that the panic sensations will pass.
    • Try to note down details of your panic attacks to help you to identify possible triggers. Possible things to record can include: when, where, duration and what has helped in the past to calm you down.
    • Remember that symptoms of panic are the physiological symptoms of anxiety (i.e. excess adrenaline) in the body, and can often be misinterpreted for more catastrophic health-related problems. They will pass. 
    • Even though it can be difficult, it’s important to try to not let panic attacks get in the way of your usual activities. Avoiding certain situations or places because you’re worried about having a panic attack can actually increase anxiety in the long-term.

How can friends and family help

  • Learn more about anxiety
  • Try to empathise with them. try to understand their feelings, be kind and non-judgemental about how they feel and act, validate their feelings and let them know it is okay to not be okay.
  • Ask them what you can do to help. If appropriate, offer practical help, such as doing chores or looking after their dependents, to reduce their stress.


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