Sleep, good eats, and physical activity are all part of the answer, as is doing a mental check right now.
It’s nearly impossible to move about your day without someone mentioning the novel coronavirus, which has spread to more than 40 states throughout the United States, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest count. With over and over confirmed cases and more developing every day, someone in your own community may be affected — and even those far away from affected individuals could be feeling the telltale signs of anxiety as offices, schools, and public events close for the foreseeable future. If you already have developed a hard knot of dread in the pit of your stomach — maybe it pops up when you’re scrolling social media, or walking past an empty grocery aisle — it’s important to note: leading mental health experts say this is actually a healthy reaction.
“I would say it’s very important to understand that if you’re anxious, it’s okay — you’re normal,” says Gail Saltz, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s Weill-Cornell School of Medicine. “Because right now there’s a lot of anxiety-producing stuff going on. It’s evolutionary, normal, and healthy to have anxiety in reactions to things, with an appropriate level of concern.”
While you shouldn’t feel shame or concerned if you feel anxious during this time, Dr. Saltz also clarifies that, often, a person can easily elevate their concerns to a life-consuming level of anxiety that’s inhibiting altogether. “Here’s when I would be concerned: If your anxiety becomes way out of proportion to what’s going on … and it interrupts your ability to function, then it’s time to think about addressing it [with a professional],” she says.
If anxiety has turned into fear, feelings of helplessness, or panic in your everyday life (or for someone you love), there may be a few smart ways you calm yourself while staying adequately informed. A panel of six mental health specialists, from psychologists to academic experts, spoke with Good Housekeeping to share their tips to help you find a sense of calm and peace in the coming weeks.