10 Things to Do When You Feel Anxious or Scared About World Events

How to cope with anxious thoughts

Finding hope and positivity during a crisis.

When disaster strikes, especially on a global scale, it can be hard to escape all the negativity in the news and on social media. This is especially true for a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic, which is impacting everyone in one way or another through shelter-in-place orders and the devastating impact on the economy. With anxiety mounting as more jobs become affected, it’s important to find ways to refocus, destress, and remind ourselves that there’s hope and happiness in the world—even during this pandemic. Here are 10 things to do when you feel anxious or scared about world events.

1. Reach out to your loved ones.

Social distancing is a vital part of fighting COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean you have to cut off all contact with the outside world. Having a social support network, which is a group of people you know you can rely on when times get tough, is proven to lower your anxiety levels and help you feel safer. Whether you’re sharing your anxieties with someone you trust or simply letting loose and having a bit of fun, your friends and family are some of your best resources in the fight against anxiety. This effect isn’t diminished by distance—there are plenty of ways you can reach out to your loved ones with technology, from video chatting to hosting a virtual game night online using services like Jackbox Games. If you’re quarantining with your family, set aside time to do fun activities with them.

2. Establish comfortable spaces and routines.

When it comes right down to it, we’re all creatures of habit—even the most spontaneous of us have some form of routine. Routines make us feel safe and comfortable, so establishing one at home can help relieve those anxious feelings. Try to start each day on a positive note with a calming morning routine that helps you feel prepared to take on the day. You should also ensure that there’s at least one area of your home where you feel safe, comfortable, and relaxed; even if you have kids taking over the house with school canceled, claim a reading nook or art space for yourself and carve out time to go there each day and unwind.

3. Cut down on caffeine.

Caffeine is liquid energy in a cup, but it can actually worsen your anxiety. This is because it causes your body to release adrenaline, giving you a boost of energy. But adrenaline is also involved in your fight-or-flight response, so too much caffeine can make you jittery, restless, and downright anxious. If you’re already feeling anxious, it’s smart to cut back on how much caffeine you’re drinking—you may even want to switch to decaf until your daily anxiety levels have returned to normal.

4. Try practicing yoga.

All exercise helps lessen anxiety and improve your mood, but yoga is particularly great for anxiety because it places an emphasis on mindfulness and meditation. As an added bonus, it’s easy to tailor the movements to your individual capabilities while still getting a surprisingly good workout, and you can do it at home without any specialized equipment.

5. Remember that you’ve survived hard things before.

Life doesn’t pull its punches, so you’ve likely experienced—and survived—challenges before. Chances are you emerged from those challenges stronger, becoming a better person or gaining experience that’s allowed you to better help yourself or others. No matter how hopeless circumstances may seem now, remind yourself that this crisis won’t last forever and that you’re more than capable of weathering this storm.

6. Go for the facts, not rumor or imagination.

Even though reading the news reports might make you anxious, having access to accurate facts—even if they’re alarming—is better than not knowing. If you don’t educate yourself on the realities of COVID-19, you’re vulnerable to falling for inaccurate articles that are designed to get more clicks by fueling anxiety with dramatic claims. If you ignore the news altogether, you risk your imagination running wild if you don’t know the truth. Our brains are wired to create worst-case scenarios, so you could inadvertently increase your own anxiety by imagining that the crisis is much worse than it actually is. Even when the truth is unpleasant, it’s always best to know it; that way, you know exactly what you’re facing.

7. Turn off the news.

While knowing the facts is incredibly important, being constantly bombarded with information can drive your anxiety levels up as well—especially considering how doom-and-gloom the news can be. As a result, it’s smart to limit how much exposure you have to it. Decide how much you can handle, and implement strategies such as checking in on the latest information at the end of each day, and then turning off the news. This will ensure that you’re able to stay informed without being overwhelmed with constant reminders and gloomy predictions.

8. Find outlets for your nervous energy.

Finding an outlet for your nervous energy can go a long way towards easing your anxiety by occupying your mind and your body. You can take free classes online to learn new skills, go on a cleaning spree, or dedicate time to a hobby like writing, gardening, or painting. Giving yourself tasks like this will stave off boredom and anxiety while shelter-in-place orders remain in effect.

9. Spend time with animals.

If you have pets at home, spending a little extra time playing with or cuddling them can relieve your anxiety—and your pet will love all the attention! Many studies have confirmed that pets reduce anxiety, depression, and loneliness while boosting your mood. If you don’t have a pet at home but have extra time on your hands, you may want to consider fostering a cat or dog. They’ll ease your anxiety while you help them find a forever home, and it’s uplifting to be a force of positive change in the world, even in a small way.

10. Remember that everyone reacts to challenges differently.

Resist the temptation to compare your reaction to this world event to the reactions of other people. While everyone has been affected to some extent, some people are impacted more than others; losing a job, for example, gives the crisis a much bigger punch than it does for someone who is able to telework. Outside factors like a failing marriage, chronic health issues, moving, or the death of a loved one will also make another blow like COVID-19 and its consequences hit that much harder, while it might be a blip on the radar of someone whose life is going great.

It’s similar to how spilling your coffee isn’t a big deal if you’re having an otherwise good day, but it can be the last straw on days when everything is going wrong. Additionally, you can’t know what’s going on in other people’s heads; they may look calm and confident when they’re really terrified, so it’s no use comparing yourself to them. Everyone handles crises differently, so remember that it’s okay if you’re not reacting the same way that others are; you don’t have to feel ridiculous or guilty for feeling anxious—or not anxious enough.

While world crises like COVID-19 can have far-reaching, anxiety-inducing consequences, you can take the reins back from your anxiety, lessening it and redirecting your remaining nervous energy in a positive way. Although these methods won’t erase the stresses and difficulties you may be facing, they can help you handle them in a healthy, positive way—and emerge stronger as a result.

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