Updated: May 3
Today we are directly or indirectly affected by the pandemic. Either we or one of our loved ones is infected or battling for their lives, or we know someone around us who is suffering. Anxiety, related to Covid is very real and something we have to recognize rather than being in denial because only when we accept it can we start doing something to change it.
It can manifest either in clinically visible ways or it could be a subconscious process that is affecting all our decision-making, our work, and our internal thought processes negatively.
But how we manage our emotions and anxiety has a direct effect on the quality of our day, our health, our mind, and eventually the quality of the support we can give to our loved ones and people around us in need.
Why should we keep this anxiety in control?
A life event of this sort where the sheer magnitude of the event (the pandemic) and the high levels of morbidity & mortality it brings along, is big enough to cause extreme levels of anxiety and stress without us realizing it.
The more the stress and anxiety, the more prone you are to get Covid or any disease and if you are already suffering from Covid you will take longer to heal completely. It is more crucial for a Covid affected person to keep their spirits high and find ways to beat the stress and anxiety.
Remember the susceptibility of stress varies from person to person and you can never know how much it can impact one's well-being, defense from disease, or healing capacity after being infected.
Chronic stress and anxiety, which is more likely the case in this pandemic, can significantly affect the immune system and manifest as disease. You could not only be prone to Covid but also all other diseases like allergies, cough and cold, recurrent migrainous headaches, stomach-related problems, and many more.
Because of rise in the catecholamine level and the suppressor T cells, the immune system gets suppressed and increases the risk of viral infection. So in a layman’s language stress and anxiety makes you susceptible to all kinds of viral infections easily.
Stress can also result in the release of histamine which can trigger moderate-to-severe bronchoconstriction in asthmatics or worsen the symptoms in a diagnosed Covid patient.
Effects of stress and anxiety include a sudden unexplained increase in sugar level in diabetics and an increase in acid concentration in the stomach resulting in an increase in gastroesophageal reflux disease and peptic ulcers or stress ulcers. A significant increase in mouth ulcers and loss of taste can also be seen as a manifestation of stress and anxiety.
Let's not forget the combination of stress along with the sedentary life that most people are living these days along with a high-fat diet makes you very prone to high cholesterol levels and an increase in plaque buildup in the arteries.
There is also a higher probability of psychiatric illness like neurosis followed by depression and schizophrenia following a stressful life event than a physical or medical illness. Not to forget mood disorders, general irritability, confusion, and lack of desire to do anything.
According to some studies, stress-induced changes in the immune system may even be responsible for triggering a cancerous process in the body.
Remember, the longer the stress the more the immune system has shifted from adaptive changes to potentially detrimental changes, at first in the cellular immunity and then in the broader immune function.
When chronic stress is not released, it suppresses the body's immune system and ultimately manifests as illness.
How to beat this Anxiety?
So here are a few things we can do to stay upbeat and in high spirits. This may involve taking a few conscious decisions in favor of choosing health and harmony over curiosity.
1. Overstimulation of our senses with information that doesn’t serve us.
I cannot stress this enough. More information does not correlate to more solutions but it definitely correlates to more confusion and more anxiety. Try to keep your stimulus to new information about Covid to an absolute minimum because unless you are a doctor, you do need a medical expert to help you out when you or anyone close to you is infected by Covid. And they definitely know how to treat you. Faith is a drug that can do wonders but that won’t come easily if you believe everything you hear.
So lapping up every article or video on the net or what's app about the spread or treatment doesn’t in any way equip you with more solutions. Even a single article or a single video from the right source is enough to get you the necessary information. And definitely not early in the morning because that sets your mood for the day. An anxious or disheartened mind cannot do much for itself or anyone else.
When you start filling your mind with only Covid news and information you start tipping towards anxiety and distress which is not serving you in any way. It leaves you tired, confused, frustrated, and distrusting of everyone and everything. And that is not a good sign because when the time comes when you might need help you will become part of the problem rather than the solution because of a lack of faith in the process and system.
Decide on one source of information, a doctor or a trusted source online (medical journals/websites) or govt. portals, and spend not more than 10-15 mins a day to get the necessary information. You will be doing yourself a favor.
Keeping tabs on daily developments is not changing your life for the better in any way.
2. A calming or meditative process as part of your morning routine.
To get rid of all the jargon in our head and to start the day on a calm and inspired note it is very necessary to have a process built-in your day which helps you to connect with your deeper self. Because it is at this time that you are sitting exposed in front of your inner being, bringing out your fears, worries, and what is troubling you subconsciously.
Once you go through this exercise on a daily basis right at the beginning of the day it puts you in control of your emotions and puts you in the driver's seat to be able to maneuver the day in the right direction.
You are no more in denial and this newfound awareness helps you do what is necessary to keep your energy levels and your life state elevated.
Meditation or just doing something meditative every morning should be compared with that cup of tea or coffee that you have every morning, without which you just can’t start your day.
If you are new to meditation, I would suggest going through this blog post.
Suggested read - The Basics of meditation and how to get started?
3. Staying Busy
At times like these, the best solution is to not have any time to think about things that can bring down your life state or upset you because of what’s going on in the world around you.
It will serve you well to have your day planned in advance. Put in time for work, pursuing hobbies, spending time with family as well as relaxation. That helps keep the day productive and enjoyable.
Suggested Resource - Daily Wellness Planner
4. Giving Gratitude
Do not forget to start the day with gratitude for all that you have and how things could be much worse, no matter what your situation. Our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel ‘good’. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside.
McCraty and colleagues (1998), in one of their studies on gratitude and appreciation, found that participants who felt grateful showed a marked reduction in the level of cortisol, the stress hormone. At the neurochemical level, feelings of gratitude are associated with an increase in the neural modulation of the prefrontal cortex, the brain site responsible for managing negative emotions like guilt, shame, and violence.
5. Offering Help in whatever way you can
When you see people affected around you and you help them out, you not only forget your own worries and anxieties but you also serve humanity which will make you feel extremely useful and worthy.
It doesn’t matter how you help out. It could be a call to someone in distress or checking on people around you regularly. You could help the Covid affected families by bringing their groceries or offering them food. You could help people with the right information at the right time.
Use your expertise to help people however best you can. There is no good or bad help, more or less help - Help is just Help.
I help through writing these blog posts, through my videos, through my website, and physically whenever I get called anywhere to help someone medically in my vicinity, I always go.
6. Find ways to relax which do not include screens
Spend time doing what you love at least for 30 minutes to an hour daily. This could be a walk, painting, dancing, sketching, sculpting, reading books, gardening. Anything that takes you into that zone to make you forget everything else. Along with distracting you, it releases all the happiness hormones to keep you calm and happy while reducing your anxiety.
7. Stop anticipating the problem and preparing for it
If you believe in the laws of the universe and the law of attraction particularly, it says,
what occupies your mind most or all of the time is what you are going to invite into your life.
At this time most of you would be nodding your head saying - "that’s not me!"
You might not be talking about it, but you are listening about it, reading about it, and after all this, you obviously can't stop thinking about it. Every decision of yours is guided by the present pandemic in some way or the other.
There are some who have kept the drugs, supportive treatment options, and some special equipment at home in anticipation of the problem or in fear that there won’t be enough if and when they need them.
Please tell me what signal does this send out into the universe and what vibrations are you attracting back into your life? You are literally inviting the problem home. I leave the rest for you to figure out.
In short - please do not panic.
8. Follow the Covid guidelines.
It is easy to blame the situation if you haven’t truly taken the basic precautions of social distancing, staying away from public places unless absolutely necessary. Wearing a mask and cleaning your hands whenever in contact with spaces in public areas. I would recommend washing with soap and water over sanitizing.
If you know you are doing these things right you anyway will have less anxiety because you know you did everything that you possibly could.
9. Tire yourself completely
With fewer places to go and being stuck mostly to the house, you may find it difficult to get your mind off things that increase your anxiety. So find some time in the day to work out in your house or practice yoga to keep your body active and to tire it down so that it stimulates the right hormones and helps you sleep well at night along with keeping you fit.
Exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins are responsible for the "runner's high" and for the feelings of relaxation and optimism that accompany many hard workouts.
Suggested Resource - Home Workouts for Beginners
10. Stop Blaming others and take responsibility for yourself
Firstly remember that the doctors, nurses, and paramedical staff treating you are as human as you are but they are still rising to the occasion to put you before themselves and their families. They are doing the best they can. They are more susceptible to the disease than any of you. They are equally if not more affected by stress and anxiety. Stop blaming them for what doesn’t go right. Rather help them and support them to get the best results possible for everyone involved. At this time we all need empathy and understanding from each other.
Secondly, stop worrying about the efficacy of the vaccine and potent new strains if you are not even taking the basic precautions necessary. Be responsible and take the vaccine when it's your turn. This is the best way to beat the anxiety and fight Covid while continuing to follow all the guidelines.
11. Ask for Help
If you are reeling from the shock of having lost someone or just can't handle the negative emotions that have surrounded you, please confide in someone and ask for help from a professional if necessary. This could be a counselor, a friend, a psychologist, a spiritual coach, a healer, or a family member. Anyone who you feel is in a capacity to help you and can understand you. DO Not go through this all by yourself.
Sometimes emotions like guilt consume you for being left behind yourself when a loved one could not be saved or the resentment of not being able to do enough.
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Now whether you are someone who is directly affected by this pandemic or indirectly there is a tough reality we have to understand which is that there are some things that are in our control and we can do something about it and then there are those things which are definitely not in our control and constantly thinking about it won’t bring a solution or change the reality. But keeping ourselves in high spirits no matter what the situation is, could be the only way to make this tough time bearable.
Especially if you are fighting Covid the higher your life state the better your body will respond to healing, your immunity will be better and you will be Covid free sooner.
If you are someone who has lost a near or dear one to this deadly disease, all I can say is I am very very sorry for your loss and sorry that you had to go through this ordeal. I hope you can find the strength to move on knowing that you did everything that you possibly could and that there are some things that are beyond us all. Do not let guilt or resentment consume you and I hope you can find something in this blog post that can motivate you to lift your life state so that you can start living again, knowing that the loved one you have lost is in a much better place. Your loss is irreparable but your life has to move on and that is what your loved one would have wanted for you as well. So fight the anxiety for their sake and for the sake of all others around you who care for you and want you back.