Tips against coronavirus anxiety
#5 First aid for anxiety.
The good thing about episodes of extreme anxiety is that they are over relatively quickly, usually after 15 to 30 minutes. Such anxiety attacks are extremely unpleasant but they are not dangerous.
In situations like these, it can be helpful to use certain breathing techniques, mental distancing techniques and/or relaxation and meditation techniques. These techniques do not eliminate fear but they make it easier to cope. Several exercises can be found in our story. You'll also find exercises in many apps, online programmes and videos. If you are feeling overwhelmed and are suffering from acute anxiety, you can contact the Berliner Krisendienst by telephone between 4 pm and midnight. They will immediately provide you with advice from experts. You can find the phone number for your district on the website www.berliner-krisendienst.de.
#1 Anxiety is a useful emotion.
It has an alarm function, i.e. it activates body and mind within seconds to react to a perceived danger. And the coronavirus poses a serious threat to the health of many people and thus to our society.
Like any emotion, fear contains simple, impulsive instructions for action: fight or flight. So fight the threat or run away. In the case of the coronavirus, however, this is not realistic. We cannot hide from the virus and we cannot eradicate it. If we frantically continue to try to do so, it manifests itself in irrational, exaggerated behaviour. These have the effect of maintaining fear and keeping us on alert. The actual threat remains unaffected. The behavioural reactions are preceded by automatic thoughts and evaluations that classify the situation as a threat. If the threat cannot be eliminated quickly - which is the case with the coronavirus - it is a matter of "shutting down" our physical and psychological alarm reaction a little bit in order not to remain in an alarm reaction permanently. Because that can make you ill. This is where methods of fear regulation come in. This presupposes that we learn to accept and endure a "residual fear".
#2 Inform yourself and behave accordingly.
Not to fall into excessive, irrational behaviour. It is important to inform yourself and follow the recommendations of the experts.
When we feel afraid, this automatically triggers two possible responses: fight or flight. Our bodies respond like this in order to eliminate the threat as quickly and effectively as possible. If our fear levels are allowed to become excessively high, these behavioural responses can become excessive. We remain in a continual state of fear and are constantly on high alert. It is therefore important to keep a sense of perspective and be aware of your behaviour. For example, panic buying is an expression of an extreme urge to protect yourself against the virus while completely hiding away in your home is an extreme way of hiding from the virus - neither of these behaviours will change the actual threat and will only make you feel more anxious. A reasonable response is to follow the recommendations of experts and to behave accordingly. This also will help to reduce the risk of new infections (and not reduce it to zero). We need to adopt sensible behaviours that will help to slow down the speed with which the virus is spreading among the population. This includes social distancing, only doing essential errands and not gathering in groups.
#3 Keep structure.
Structure gives us the feeling of having an overview of everything and knowing what is likely to happen in the future. This helps to reduce our anxiety. At the moment we are quickly losing many of our usual structures. Creating a certain structure in our daily life and maintaining it is therefore all the more important.
Think about how much time you would like and are able to spend on working and/or studying from home every day. Mental activities should never exceed 6-8 hours per day, you cannot work effectively for longer than that. This working time should be broken up with regular breaks. It is best to decide on blocks of time during which you want to work and to define your work tasks as clearly as possible. This also gives you the opportunity to see progress, which is something that can be very motivating. We are also motivated by small rewards that can help to increase work/learning success. This can also be an inner "You did that well" or a piece of your favourite chocolate. Important: Don't try to do too much! This is an exceptional situation and you cannot expect yourself to be one hundred percent in your work. It is also helpful to plan your free time a little so that you can really use it to recharge your batteries. Suggestions for this will be featured in our next post. Important: Limit your media time!
#4 Be good to yourself.
Think about the activities you enjoyed before and what you can do now (e.g. painting, handicrafts, creative design, reading, playing certain games, making music, writing, etc.). You shouldn't be worried about feeling bored – the process of boredom results in creative ideas!
Activities that would usually provide a welcome distraction, such as going to the cinema, theatre, concerts etc., are not possible at the moment unfortunately. However, numerous cultural offers are now available online instead (twitter.com/streamkultur). Take advantage of the many apps and videos for doing sports and exercise programmes at home. You can and you should go out into the fresh air to exercise and do sports – at a reasonable distance from others, of course! It is important to avoid physical social contact, but writing and telephoning is allowed! You can use technology creatively to stay in contact with your family and friends. As we are currently being forced to limit our radius of activity, it is a good opportunity to reconnect with ourselves and do things that we might otherwise neglect. All of this is good for your physical and mental well-being and also helps to make you more resilient.
Hanna Dobrovoda, a graduate psychologist, works in the at the Psychological Counselling Department at HTW Berlin. If you need support, please contact her: Hanna.Dobrovoda@HTW-Berlin.de.
#6 Reliable information instead of thoughts of fear.
Our emotional and behavioural reactions are automatically derived from thoughts and assessments that perceive a situation as a threat. If we are able to identify these thoughts, we can then review and change them so that we can react appropriately.
Consider the facts: Do I belong to a high risk group? What is specifically recommended by the authorities? According to the current state of knowledge, what is the worst that can happen to someone like me? What steps can I take to protect myself? After considering the facts, most people have a better sense of perspective and feel reassured. And put your smartphone down, turn off the coronavirus news on TV and consciously give yourself some time out.
#7 Away from black and white thinking.
When we are afraid, we tend to think in terms of black and white, 0 or 1, all or nothing, yes or no.
Automatic thoughts and assessments that classify a situation as a threat determine our behavioural responses. They happen within seconds, are based on very basic information and we are barely aware of them. This makes sense when you're facing an immediate threat when you don’t have time to weigh up how dangerous something is and think about all the things you could do. In situations like that you need to make lightning-fast decisions.But this reactive thought process does not work for complex problems and oversimplifies the facts. This is also the case with the coronavirus – there are no clear answers to many key questions and this is difficult for us to accept. If you make yourself consciously aware of this, you can try to think in shades of grey instead of black and white or calculating probabilities.
#8 The glass half full or half empty.
If you allow yourself to operate at the minimum level, this can create a form of relief.
You will find that your priorities change. Although the chaos around us can be frightening, it also gives us greater freedom in other ways.
#09 Maintaining relationships.
The current situation is also presenting challenges for our relationships. Many couples are suddenly having to navigate being together in a very confined space for most of the day. This naturally creates the potential for conflict.
In conflict situations, we react the same way as we do when we are afraid: either we try to flee (physically or inwardly) or we go into fight mode to defend ourselves. Every relationship conflict triggers fear within us. Certain patterns tend to develop quite quickly between partners when conflicts arise: usually one partner assumes the fight position, while the other partner increasingly withdraws. Both reactions increase fear in the other partner, creating a self-perpetuating circle of escalation. The cycle can only be broken if both partners decide to stop it together. For example, you could agree on a stop signal, interrupt the argument and give yourselves the chance to calm down. As constructive problem solving is simply not possible at this point, you should instead try to focus on regulating your emotions and feelings. In such situations, and also otherwise, it is important to give reassurance that you are there for each other. This can be done with words, gestures and little ways of showing that you care. Talk about your fears and insecurities, discuss your typical reactions to fear. Establish joint activities and rituals in your daily life. At the same time, make sure you allow the space that everyone needs. Clear agreements and arrangements are particularly important now. But you can also start making plans together for the "time after". Challenges are always an opportunity to grow.