Mental Health Experts Tell Us How To Cope With Anxiety Amid COVID-19
Feelings of anxiety and stress have become a common occurrence in the days of the coronavirus. While continuing to remain vigilant of your physical health, it’s important to check in with your mental health too.
In a recent policy brief, the UN reported that “a long-term upsurge in the number and severity of mental health problems is likely” as a result of the pandemic, which carries “the seeds of a major mental health crisis".
We speak to psychologist Dr Hannah Reidy from Mind Hong Kong and mental health advocate Aaron Stadlin-Robbie, founder of the Talking Mental podcast, which discusses mental health, on how to manage feelings of stress and anxiety.
Why are we feeling more anxious than ever?
Humans don’t like to feel that they’re not in control.
“There was a lot of information [and] we weren’t sure what was right and what was wrong. There was the worry about people becoming infected or others becoming infected; people who lived with their relations were vulnerable and those who were separated from their relations were worrying about their loved ones. There was a general health anxiety,” says Dr Reidy.
After that initial worry, when we were more used to living with the pandemic, came the worrying about the future. Things like “worrying about jobs, the economy and worrying about finances. There’s a lot of anxiety in a loss of routine as well,” says Dr Reidy.
How important is it to take care of your mental health during this time?
Our mental state is fragile, and when outlets like going to the gym and going out with friends to socialise are restricted, everything can be magnified.
“Everyone has mental health issues; it just depends on where on the spectrum you are. Everyone’s mental health is being tested” says Aaron Stadlin-Robbie.
How can we alleviate our anxiety?
"[It's important to] remind yourself that this will pass and there are things we can do to help it," says Dr Reidy. "Acknowledge it and notice how it’s feeling in your body: [things like] if you’re feeling shaky or your heart is beating more than normal. It’s really helpful to take a break from social media and traditional media as well. We are in a world where there is so much information and often that information can be anxiety-provoking. When we’re feeling anxious, we tend to look for information that will make us even more anxious.”
It’s important to find what works for you when it comes to relieving feelings of anxiety. “Bring your mind into the present, rather than thinking about the past or future. This can be meditation or breathing work. There’s also active mindfulness like going for a walk or hiking” says Dr Reidy.
“For me, what I did with my mental health was controlling what I could control," says Stadlin-Robbie. I've been eating healthier and working out outdoors and at home and I’ve gotten a lot fitter. Sign up to some meal plans. I turn to a lot of comedy podcasts, because that’s what helped me.” It’s about doing things that bring you joy, says Stadlin-Robbie, and taking the time to savour the feeling.
“Control what you can. Do what makes you happy. Because when you are low and anxious, it’s easy to spiral. It begins to snowball. Get your support system in place. Who are your friends? How can you do fun things together? Have a hike or go play a video game; be creative” says Stadlin-Robbie. It’s better to be dealing with things as a unit, he says, than bearing it alone.