Dealing With Health Anxiety During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Photo By Alex Bracken On Unsplash

Constant breaking news, uncertainty and conflicting advice about coronavirus; it’s a breeding ground for anxiety regardless of whether you have a health condition or not. The crisis is leaving many of us feeling overwhelmed, stressed, fearful, sad, angry and all the feelings in-between and it can be heightened when you have a chronic illness. 

For those of us who have previously spent excessive time indoors with an illness or disability, the thought of self-isolation can bring back those memories of being ill and housebound which of course further adds to the anxiety. 

However, whilst we can’t control what’s happening, there are things we can do to help ourselves manage the anxiety. As well as adhering to social distancing, self-isolation and good hygiene practices, I’ve outlined several things which might make you feel a little bit better!

My top tips for managing anxiety during the pandemic:

1. Stay away from social media

The constant stream of breaking news, people’s commentary and opinions on the breaking news, and fake news are definitely clogging up my feed. Don’t be afraid to delete your social media or mute the buzzwords on Twitter to make your feed a safe space.

To keep updated on the latest news, choose a reliable news source such as the BBC. Then you are in control of when you check the news and it doesn’t have to be all-consuming. 

2. Don’t Google symptoms

I think most people who struggle with health anxiety are guilty of this. Dr Google isn’t always our friend and can often leave you feeling worse rather than more assured. Focus on keeping your health as good as you possibly can instead.

3. Get in touch with your healthcare team if you’re concerned

Some of us with stomas may have underlying health conditions that could place us in the ‘at risk’ category. But most of us will be no more ‘at risk’ than anyone else. If you are concerned, the best thing to do is contact your usual healthcare practitioner for advice. Obviously, they will be under a significant amount of stress at this time so try to remain patient while you wait to hear from them. If you have concerns specifically related to your products and how your supplies could be impacted, you can also reach out to your delivery service team (NB: the SecuriCare team are available on 0800 318 965 for registered SecuriCare customers, or 0808 256 5400 for new customers) – but remember that they, too, are likely to be experiencing high call volumes at the moment from worried customers, and they’re unable to give out medical advice related to your specific circumstances. 

4. Communicate

Don’t be afraid to communicate your worries. The majority of people are feeling anxious, so you aren’t alone in this and talking to others may help.   

Also, for those who are working, don’t be afraid to speak with your employer if you have concerns. If you’re able to do your job from home, then ask to work remotely. The government have now advised that those who can work from home, should work from home. If you’re in a position where that’s not possible, talk to your employer so they are aware of your health concerns and see if there are any other measures which can be taken to reduce your risk of contracting the virus. 

5. Use the time to do something you’ve been meaning to do

We’re all going to be spending more time indoors so why not use this as an opportunity to learn something you’ve always wanted to do. Maybe organise that cupboard which you’ve been meaning to do for months. Or take up a new hobby like cross stitch or painting. Or learn a new language. OR watch that series you’ve been meaning to! 

Instead of looking at this time at home as a negative, turn it into a positive. 

6. Create a routine

Creating a routine is so beneficial for your mental health. Everything is up in the air at the moment, so whether you’re on lockdown, working from home, always at home or whatever, try and find a routine to help you feel more in control, even a loose one will provide a bit of stability.

7. Grounding, meditation, yoga - all the elements of mindfulness

These things help ease your mind and anxiety and can create a more calming atmosphere.

I take time out to practice some of the meditations I’ve learnt in my yoga class including So Hum. Sit crossed legged, close your eyes and take a deep breath. On every inhale, think or say ‘So’ on every exhale, think or say ‘Hum’. 

If you struggle with unguided meditation, I really recommend the Calm app which is packed with guided meditations. 

Journaling is a favourite of mine and something that’s really helped me. It’s a great way to get your thoughts out, work things out and ‘download’ your brain. If you’re looking for an easy way to start, try writing down three things you’re grateful for every day. Get into the habit of writing every day.

Best of luck everyone, take care and be kind to one another.

Photo credit: Alex Bracken on Unsplash

by Katie May Chesworth

Katie May Chesworth

About the author

Katie May is a health and wellness advocate living with a stoma, IBD and arthritis. You can follow her on Instagram for regular updates related to both her health and travels.

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