Feeling anxious and stressed about the coronavirus is a natural reaction. Human beings like certainty – we’re hard-wired to want to know what’s happening and to notice things that feel threatening to us. 

Most of us have never had to deal with uncertainty on this scale before. The unique nature of COVID-19 means that we’re working with unknowns and that can increase anxiety. 

You might feel more on edge than usual, angry, helpless or sad. You might notice that you’re more frustrated with others or want to completely avoid any reminders of what is happening. For those of us who already struggle with our mental wellness, we might feel more depressed or less motivated to carry out our daily activities.

We are not helpless in light of current news events. We can help choose our response. Here are some things you can do to take care of your mental health in the face of uncertainty:

Facts minimize fear
The more you know about coronavirus, the more proactive you can be in terms of prevention. Seek out accurate information from credible sources – this will help you to avoid the fear and panic that misinformation produces.

Pay attention to official health sources, including the World Health Organization and the Public Health Agency of Canada (or your local city’s Public Health or Ministry Public Health agency).

Separate what’s in your control from what’s not
There are things you can do, and it’s helpful to focus on those, like washing your hands, taking your vitamins and limiting your consumption of news.

Get outside
Go for a walk in your neighborhood (as long as you are adhering to current government guidelines). If the sun is shining, you will get your daily dose of vitamin D and fresh air. Exercise also helps both your physical and mental health – and if you’re looking for a more intense workout, the GoodLife Fitness Blog features many different at home workout options. 

Sleep and mindfulness
It sounds obvious, but making sure that you get adequate sleep will help you to manage stress. Take a look at your sleep hygiene and develop a bedtime routine.

Consider practicing mindfulness as a coronavirus stress and anxiety strategy. Challenge yourself to stay in the present – when you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened, gently bring yourself back to the present moment.

Notice the sights, sounds, tastes and other sensory experiences in your present situation and name them. Engaging in mindfulness activities is one way to help stay grounded when things feel beyond your control.

Stay connected
Stay connected with family, friends and support networks. It’s easy to withdraw from others and shut down when you feel stressed.

It’s possible to remain connected digitally if you find yourself quarantined, social distancing or working from home. Speak to friends and family using video calling apps or phone calls to manage feelings of isolation.

Talk to trusted friends about what you are feeling – and if you’re feeling particularly anxious or if you are struggling with your mental health, it’s OK to reach out to a mental health professional for support. Your family physician may also now be offering telehealth services.

You don’t have to be alone with your worry and it can be comforting to share what you are experiencing with those trained to help.

Be kind to yourself and others
Recognize that everyone is impacted. It sucks if your trip gets cancelled. It is awful if your kids can't go to school. It is horrible if you can't work. 

But remember, we are all in this together and it is more important than ever to be good to one another, to recognize that it's not all about you or me and that the best cure for any disappointment or disaster is to be grateful for what you still have and to look for where you can help someone else.