It’s been a little over a year since our country was placed under lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. But despite having the lengthiest nationwide quarantine period in the world, we’re only seeing a rise in the number of confirmed cases almost daily.
In fact, the stats have become so bad of late, breaking records one day after another, it’s almost as though we’re back to square one even with vaccines being rolled out. And as though that’s not awful enough, more strains of COVID-19 are being discovered globally, including one called the P3 variant, which was found in the Philippines — eek!
Discouraging and disappointing as things have turned out, fear has also swept across the country once again — just when we were starting to come to terms with our new normal. So whether you feel like health anxiety’s finally getting to your head or you’ve always had it and it’s worsening over time, take a deep breath. Being trapped in a vicious dark hole of negative thinking is the worst possible thing you can do to your body right now. Not only does it cripple you in fear, it also wears your immune system down, making you more vulnerable to contracting illness — and you don’t want that.
Of course, this is easier said than done, which is why we made a list of things you can do to ease your health anxiety in the midst of a global pandemic:
Acknowledge your worries
As ironic as it sounds, making peace with your anxieties is one step towards managing your stress levels better. After all, your worries are valid and it’s normal to feel uneasy during this difficult time. What is not normal, however, is being a prisoner of your anxious mind.
You can lessen the burden whenever you feel like you’re on the edge by writing down everything that’s troubling you in a journal. Putting your thoughts down on paper gives you an outlet and can also give you a concrete image of what’s going on in your head. Turn to journaling as a new habit and over time, you come to understand your thought patterns better, which will make them more manageable.
Being well-informed of the current situation is great. It makes you feel safe and secured somehow. But don’t obsess over the news and shared posts or comments on social media, especially if you think those are making your health anxiety a lot worse. To avoid drowning in yet another episode of distress, designate just a few minutes of your day to read updates, source your information from reputable news outlets and organizations, and read the articles objectively.
Educate yourself on the effects of stress and anxiety on your body
People would be quick to blame anything on stress, without knowing the actual impact of being under extreme stress on the body. Well, stress and anxiety are a dreadful combo that can wreak havoc on your physical health even if you don’t have an actual illness. Sometimes, the overworked brain can even send pain signals all over your body, causing unpleasant to debilitating sensations that can’t be explained by standard medical tests.
A simple yet effective way to relax when you’re in a state of agitation is by practicing deep belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, which helps activate the relaxation response of your mind and body.
One of the things that give people anxiety is how the current situation is making them feel defenseless. If you feel the same way, you might find some comfort in the fact you still have control over your own health, and it’s high time for you to give your immune system a good boost by adopting a home fitness routine (YouTube has a lot!) and incorporating more healthful anti-inflammatory foods into your diet (here’s a helpful list you might wanna check out!).
Channel your energy towards something worth your while
In short, distract yourself. Maybe, you want to try whipping up something delicious in the kitchen, or, perhaps, learn a foreign language, or pursue a passion project you’ve been putting on hold for too long now. Go for it! Also… in case you’re wondering, it’s never too late to be a plant parent and start your little garden at home. Mother Earth will even thank you!
Don’t engage in activities that will put you at high risk of contracting the virus
This is another way of telling you to not give yourself more reasons to worry. You’re already in so much distress. Imagine how much more anxious you’d be if you find out that the restaurant you dined at with friends recently reported an outbreak or several guests at a party you attended over the weekend have contracted the virus. Staying home for pretty much an entire year sure is exhausting, but it still is the best way to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. If you have to head out for work or to run errands, never let your guard down, and practice all the safety measures that we’ve been reminded about every so often.
Give Dr. Google a rest
While there’s a wealth of good information online that you can easily access, try your best not to search for every little symptom you feel or notice. Catastrophizing is among the worst tendencies of people with health anxiety, which leads them to a seemingly endless cycle of worry, fear, and more pain! If you’re really extremely concerned about your health, book an online consultation with a physician, who can give you expert advice and, hopefully, some peace of mind, too.
Offer comfort to others
There is also something extremely gratifying about making others feel better, and considering the current situation, there must be people around you who could use some comforting words. Besides, reaching out to a friend or a family member who’s going through a tough time makes you feel a little less alone and opens your eyes to issues that are far more real than the worries in your head.
For more tips on how to cope during the pandemic, visit 8List Breathe.