Health, Anxiety and Coronavirus

The Wellhub Team

The constant new barrage of developments regarding the current outbreak of COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus) can cause particular challenges for people living with anxiety, stress and/or anxiety-based depression especially those that have health anxiety and/or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – OCD..

Whilst there’s plenty of advice on how to protect yourself and limit the risk of exposing yourself to the virus, little has been said about the effect a problem of this nature- can have on our mental health and specifically those who have pre-existing mental health issues such as anxiety disorders.

It is well established that for many that live with anxiety, a common characteristic is that of having an ability to tolerate uncertainty.  The current situation with coronavirus has clearly created a lot of uncertainty which might be difficult for those with pre-existing anxiety conditions such as health anxiety to manage.

For such individuals the whole situation may feel extra daunting and worrying and with the extensive media coverage that the subject has attracted, it’s understandable that some people may feel overwhelmed and begin to catastrophise – imagining the worst case scenario.

One thing that might be helpful for those experiencing anxiety to remember is that whilst no-one knows exactly what might happen, the good news is that most services and businesses will already have a contingency plan in place to ensure that they are able to continue operating as close to normal as possible.

Health anxiety can make any kind of symptom feel like the worst case scenario, however taking on board the below tips should help those experiencing health anxiety to feel in control and manage their anxiety:

Firstly, try to limit your exposure to news sources which are covering the coronavirus issue as this only serves to feed fear.

Ensure that you have some mental ‘downtime’ woven into your daily schedule.   Mindfulness practice can be incredibly helpful with apps such as the Headspace app (available to all Anxiety UK members at no additional cost) assist with keeping us in the here and now as opposed to allowing our minds to think about future scenarios which might never happen.

Try practising the APPLE technique which encourages you to Acknowledge, Pause, Pull back, Let go and Explore..

Acknowledge – Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.

Pause – Don’t react as you normally do. Don’t react at all. Just pause and breath.

Pull back – Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling. Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts.

Let go – Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don’t have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.

Explore – Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else – on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else – mindfully with your full attention.

Useful resources

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