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COVID-19: How to Cope With Anxiety

Coronavirus has a lot of us feeling anxious and worried: for our health, for our education, for our family and friends. So how do we deal with it? We've got some advice.

The world is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by a novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. It’s the first pandemic of its magnitude in over 100 years. Though the last pandemic was 10 short years ago, the response to the H1N1 outbreak looked very different from the global response we’re experiencing today. In fact, school closures were mainly only recommended if there was a confirmed case of H1N1.

This time around, schools around the world are closing their doors for weeks—or even months—to help stop the spread of the virus. While these closures may ease our fears, we know the virus is still out there—and we have no idea when this will all be over.

It’s no wonder we’re anxious with all of this uncertainty. If you’re looking for tips for coping with the stress of the situation in healthy, helpful ways, take a deep breath and read on.  

Top tips for managing your pandemic-induced anxiety

Move your body

Besides the physical health benefits of regular exercise, staying active during this time can work wonders for your mental state. Why? Aside from obviously feeling good, physical activity produces endorphins (chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers). Endorphins can also help bring about feelings of euphoria and general well-being. That sounds like exactly what we all need right now.

Not sure how to exercise while keeping your distance from others? You should definitely avoid the gym right now, but even your living room can be a fitness studio with the right workouts. Luckily, many fitness studios, personal trainers, and Instagram influencers are churning out at-home workouts for every fitness level—even if you don’t have any equipment! Check out these live-stream workout videos on Good Housekeeping; many free options are available, but supporting small businesses and service providers during this time can give you something else to feel good about!

Some of our team’s favorite at-home workout ideas include:

  • Setting up a quiet, comforting space and following along with a YouTube yoga instructor.
  • Banging out a quick and efficient HIIT cardio workout, consisting of jumping jacks, mountain climbers, high knees, and more.
  • Getting housework done to feel productive and accomplished while moving our bodies in a way that feels nearly effortless.

Related: Your Mini Dorm Room Workout

Eat nourishing foods

We all know that good nutrition is important, especially during stressful times like these. However, being stressed out means we may reach for “comfort foods” that are high in calories and low in nutritional value. Though it may feel really good to dive headfirst into a vat of macaroni and cheese right now, eating poorly can actually increase our stress levels and cause a boatload of problems for our health. Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even cancer can all be caused by a nutritionally void diet, and these conditions can put you at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19

Eating whole foods provides us with the energy and focus we need and keeps our physical and mental health in tip-top shape so we can remain happy and healthy throughout this strange time. Getting hungry? See if your pantry is stocked with these nine foods that help ease anxiety. One is dark chocolate, so we’re already sold!

Related: Top 10 Nutrition Tips for College Students

Try meditating

Meditation is a practice that involves relaxation, focus, and awareness. Meditation is usually done individually, while seated, with eyes closed, and in a comfortable, quiet space. The ultimate goal of meditation is mindfulness: a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. That sounds like something we could all benefit from right now, doesn’t it? 

Meditation can be intimidating at first, especially when you’re feeling stressed or worried. But be patient with yourself. Learning to meditate is like learning any other skill—it takes consistent practice to get comfortable.

If you don’t feel like diving into full-on meditation right now, try breathing. Not just any breathing though; breathwork refers to any type of breathing exercises or techniques. During breathwork, you intentionally change your breathing pattern. Anyone can do it, and it’s thought to bring about improvements in emotional state and decrease levels of stress in otherwise healthy people.

Go outside

Though the biggest message we’re hearing right now is “stay home,” it’s perfectly okay to go outside and get some fresh air. However, keep it within reason. The National Recreation and Park Association issued a statement asking folks to not use parks or trails if they’re sick, but healthy people can still use the trails as long as they still observe the CDC’s minimum recommended social distancing of six feet from other people. If you head to your favorite park or trailhead and see more than a few cars, avoid the area. Make social distancing easy for everyone by finding a less crowded space.

Please keep in mind that this is not a good time to explore new places, especially small mountain, seaside, or desert communities that have limited resources and fewer hospitals. It’s best to limit your outdoor recreation to your own backyard or local, uncrowded trails or parks. Here are some ideas for getting some sun and fresh air without putting yourself or others at risk:

  • Work or hobbies to do? Read, listen to music, or get paperwork done in a sunny spot on your porch, patio, or even your driveway.
  • Have a firepit? Build a fire and bask in the warm glow while checking out the stars.
  • City dweller? Start a call and response game with your neighbors from your open windows.
  • Take your workout outside! Walking, jogging, or HIIT workouts are all better with a little sunlight.

Tell us how you’re doing

Have you tried any of these coping strategies so far? Have any others you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you. Even if you just need a friend right now, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Stay safe and be well.

If you’re looking for more information on COVID-19 or need other ways to keep informed and busy, check out our student resources!

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