How To Deal With Anxiety Over Coronavirus And Other Contagious Illnesses You Read About Online

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How To Deal With Anxiety Over Coronavirus & Contagious Diseases In The News
Entertainment And News, Self

International, national, and local health scares are inevitable. The internet can be a tool to help you to stay informed — or it can cause you to freak out.

As we are seeing now as news outlets and social media channels bring updates about coronavirus outbreaks throughout China and the U.S. to our smartphones each day, anxiety and panic can spread quickly, whether or not fear of a particular contagious disease is warranted or realistic.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of common viruses infecting the nose, sinuses, and/or upper throat, most of which are not dangerous.

As explained by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new coronavirus which infects the respiratory system, first identified from an outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. Symptoms are similar to those of pneumonia, and range from mild to severe.

RELATED: What Is RSV? Details About The Common Flu-Like Illness

As cases have spread from China to the U.S., anxiety is spreading far more rapidly than the virus itself.

Knowing what you can control and what you have no control over is key to well-being, both in general and during times like these. Focusing on what you can control helps to offset feelings of helplessness and doom.

Whether or not you seek information about Coronavirus online is something you have control over. Limit your social media diet when it comes to going online to read about contagious illnesses, especially if it becomes all you can think about.

Feeling anxious, worried, or nervous about catching a potentially deadly virus is, of course, normal.

Humans are hard-wired for survival. Anything that threatens our survival causes us anxiety, so anxiety is a totally normal, biologically adaptive response to anything that could harm or kill.

Remind yourself of how clever your body is. It is responding to a threat (e.g., coronavirus) by creating a feeling (e.g., anxiety) that will help you stay safe, keeping you away from obvious sources of concern (e.g., the virus).

There are things you can do to decrease the likelihood of catching a contagious illness.

Taking these steps is another examples of honoring that which you can control. Some suggestions are obvious, like avoiding contact with infected people. Others are common sense but may be less often practiced, like coughing or sneezing into your sleeve instead of covering your mouth with your hand, washing your hands often, and not touching your face more than necessary.

Trying to control what you have no control over is commonly associated with anxiety.

There are random factors in the world over which no one has control. The more you can focus on what you do have control over, the more empowered and less anxious you will feel.

Faith helps some people tolerate the randomness of life and those things we can not control.

The concept of radical acceptance is that there are some things in life you have to accept, even though you don’t want to accept them. What other choice is there than to accept what can’t be changed?

RELATED: 5 Signs You're Secretly Struggling With High-Functioning Anxiety (And What You Can Do To Manage It)

When does anxiety, worry, or nervousness about catching a potentially deadly virus become abnormal?

If your anxiety is ongoing and causes you to lose sleep, withdraw from friends or family, have trouble concentrating, or affects appetite, consider seeking professional support.

Here are 10 actionable suggestions for dealing with anxiety and panic over coronavirus and similar contagious diseases you read about online:

  1. Use the internet wisely. Limit your time on sites about coronavirus and other contagious illnesses.
  2. Ask yourself what you have control over and what you do not have control over.
  3. Focus your efforts on what you can control (e.g. the amount of time spent online reading about viruses).
  4. Recognize there are things in life that no one has control over, including you. Radical acceptance!
  5. Consider using faith to help you tolerate what you can not control.
  6. Make sure you are taking good care of your own physical and mental health.
  7. Take steps to minimize your risk of infection.
  8. Talk about your feelings to trusted friends and family.
  9. If you have family/friends in affected areas of the world, take breaks from the computer and/or social media so you can rest your worries for a time.
  10. Remember that anxiety in these situations is normal. Allow yourself to receive support from others in dealing with yours.

RELATED: 28 Quotes About Why The Phrase ‘Positive Vibes Only’ Is Toxic & Why It’s Healthy To Feel Your Negative Emotions

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Dr. Elayne Daniels is a psychologist in Boston who specializes in health psychology and mind/body practices. To learn more, visit her website.

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