How to keep your anxiety levels down during the coronavirus outbreak

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic puts our communities not only at risk of a medical crisis, but also increases stress and anxiety to many people, including children and adults.

Uncertainty, excessive fear, irritability, anger, headaches, palpitations, stomach issues, changes in sleep and appetite — and yes, even boredom — are common reactions to a pandemic like the one we are facing. This is due to the perceived sense of loss of control, vulnerability and isolation from family, friends, and colleagues.

People living with chronic medical issues, mental illness and substance use may see their symptoms exacerbated. Healthcare providers and first responders may also experience high levels of anxiety.

It is important to keep calm and stay informed.

Guidelines from the CDC and WHO are credible sources of information to review and share with your loved ones. Avoid spreading rumors or sharing non-reliable information.

Too much exposure to social media can be overwhelming. Be mindful to take short breaks, stay grounded, and find things that bring joy to your life. Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including washing your hands, eating a balanced diet and exercising, avoiding alcohol or drug use, and connecting with others via phone or video calls.

It is vital for those suffering from health issues to continue their medical treatment, to communicate with their health providers if symptoms get worse and to ensure that they have adequate support.

If you are in a medical facility or have an upcoming medical appointment, ask your health provider if it would be possible to schedule a remote appointment via available phone/video technologies. Do not go to the emergency room if you do not have a medical emergency. If you are in a crisis, contact the numbers below:

How to get help

SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline Toll-Free: 1-800-985-5990 (English and Spanish)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Toll-Free (English): 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

While there is no clear road map for how to navigate the challenges we’re facing, we are all in this together.

Vanessa Padilla, M.D. and Lujain Alhajji, M.D. are assistant professors in the Department of Clinical Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

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