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How to cope with anxiety and stress during coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic

A psychologist has shared four simple tricks to ease stress and uncertainty amid the uncharted territory of the coronavirus pandemic, helping you to relax and stay positive through undeniably daunting days.

Sydney practitioner Lorraine Corne specialises in treating anxiety and depression, mental health conditions which are already being exacerbated by the intensifying COVID-19 crisis as job losses soar and financial markets hurtle into free fall.

Ms Corne told FEMAIL that perspective is the greatest antidote to panic, and urged people who are overwhelmed by a sense of impending doom or spiralling thoughts to repeat the mantra: ‘This too shall pass’.

In the midst of hand washing, social distancing and self-isolation, it’s easy to succumb to fear, but Ms Corne said there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful – reasons you can centre yourself with by following these four easy steps.

As uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies, Sydney psychologist Lorraine Corne says it's important to keep busy and put events into perspective (stock image)

As uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies, Sydney psychologist Lorraine Corne says it’s important to keep busy and put events into perspective (stock image)

PUT THINGS INTO PERSPECTIVE

While it’s only natural to feel overwhelmed by the current situation, Ms Corne says it’s crucial to put the pandemic into perspective and remember that Australians, along with the rest of the world, are in this together.

Sydney psychologist Lorraine Corne (pictured) says perspective is the greatest antidote to panic and spiralling thoughts

Sydney psychologist Lorraine Corne (pictured) says perspective is the greatest antidote to panic and spiralling thoughts

‘During these difficult times, most people will feel overwhelmed by anxiety, worry and stress,’ she said.

‘But if we change the way we react to difficult situations, we can control the part of the brain that produces this panicked ‘Oh My God’ thinking.’

Ms Corne encouraged people to remember that the vast majority of Australians have not been diagnosed with COVID-19.

By following official scientific advice and practicing vigilant hand washing, social distancing and self-isolation, if required, the chances of catching or infecting others with the disease are very low. 

SUPPORT YOUR VULNERABLE LOVED ONES

While there’s no question that these are challenging times for people of all ages and backgrounds, Ms Corne warns those who live with mental health issues like obsessive compulsive disorder will find things particularly tough.

‘People who suffer with any kind of anxiety disorder will be highly impacted by news and instructions on how to keep safe and healthy,’ she said. 

Anyone living with a friend or family member who falls into this category can help alleviate their distress by including them in plans for the coming months and inviting them to contribute ideas to shaping the household’s new normal.

Including children and vulnerable loved ones who suffer with anxiety related disorders in plans for the coming months will help to calm their spiralling thoughts (stock image)

Including children and vulnerable loved ones who suffer with anxiety related disorders in plans for the coming months will help to calm their spiralling thoughts (stock image)

‘It helps to get them involved so that they don’t stay on the periphery of plans of action,’ Ms Corne said.

‘Using laughter always helps – exaggerating things to the extent they look hilarious. A good imagination will help others make light of difficult situations.’

Keeping anxious loved ones busy and entertained is also a great distraction for anyone adjusting to the new realities of distancing, isolation and working from home.

FIVE WAYS TO EASE CORONAVIRUS ANXIETY

1. Go for a walk

2. Sit with nature and take deep breaths – freshly mowed grass and sounds of the ocean send calming messages to the brain

3. Exercise hard by going for a run or riding on a bike, either indoor or outdoor. Anxiety has trouble holding on when you are getting your blood flowing.

4. Listen to music. It doesn’t matter if it’s a head banger or a calming song. The key is to transport yourself to a place in your head where you feel safe and happy. Music memory can do this successfully.

5. If no one in your household is contagious or been in contact with anyone, it is good to share a hug with someone you trust. If this is not possible give a friend or family member thumbs up signs, blow kisses, wink – anything that involves acknowledgement and shows that you care.

Source: Dr Lorraine Corne

IDENTIFY THE SOURCE OF ANXIETY

Anxiety thrives in times of crisis because it feeds on uncertainty and a lack of information, making clear and correct information the best weapon.

TOOLS TO REDUCE ANXIETY 

1. The ‘Calm‘ app

2. ‘Headspace‘ app

2.  The Little Book of Anxiety Fixes by Lorraine Corne

3. The Little Book of Tools for the Blues by Lorraine Corne

(Both available as an e-book from Amazon/Kindle or in hard copy from Lorrainecorne.com.au

Knowing the facts of what’s happening in the world around you helps to halt spiralling worries and unfounded fears by grounding your thoughts in clear, concise information. 

But with scaremongering running rife on social media, where ‘fake news’ and misinformation is rampant, Ms Corne urged people to limit consumption to legitimate news sources and reliable publications.  

‘There are still lots of unknowns, but we can see that there is an end in sight, and this too will pass, just like SARS, the global financial crash, wars and other aspects of human life that are not all comfortable and rosy to live with,’ she said.

‘Next year we will look back and the majority of Aussies will feel joyous at having made it through these difficulties, unaffected by illness or death caused by COVID-19.’ 

Ms Corne urged people to limit consumption to legitimate news sources and government publications (stock image)

Ms Corne urged people to limit consumption to legitimate news sources and government publications (stock image)

FIND A HOBBY THAT OCCUPIES YOUR MIND

Creativity and distraction will help to keep you grounded and rational as the pandemic unfolds, which means finding a hobby that occupies your mind and brings you happiness is crucial to staying positive over the coming weeks and months.

Going for a walk and getting out in the fresh air, ideally near the ocean or trees, will increase the production of dopamine – the ‘feel good’ chemical – in the brain.

Any form of high intensity exercise, even it it’s only for 10 to 15 minutes, will reduce anxiety and allow you think clearer. Ms Corne recommended going for short runs during your lunch break or riding a bike, either indoors or outdoors.

Going for a walk or cycling in the fresh air, ideally near the ocean or trees, will increase the production of dopamine - the 'feel good' chemical - in the brain (stock image)

Going for a walk or cycling in the fresh air, ideally near the ocean or trees, will increase the production of dopamine – the ‘feel good’ chemical – in the brain (stock image)

‘Anxiety has trouble holding on when you’re getting your blood flowing,’ she said.

Listening to music or playing an instrument if you have one are other great ways to quiet the mind and provide an escape from frightening headlines and somber soundbites.

‘It doesn’t matter if it’s a head banger or a calming song – the key is to transport yourself to a place in your head where you feel safe and happy,’ Ms Corne said.

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Written by Angle News

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