The 3 best ways of dealing with anxiety from the Coronavirus outbreak

Dr Thomas Lockhart, PhD, psychology lecturer at online distance learning expert Arden University offers advice for Covid-19 anxiety.

Picture of Dr Tom Lockhart

Feeling anxious is a normal, human reaction and in times like these it’s important to remember that. So give yourself a break and let Dr Thomas Lockhart, PhD, Arden Lecturer in Psychology talk you through how to deal with feeling anxious.

“It’s good to be somewhat anxious about the Coronavirus. After all, anxiety evolved to make us pay attention to, and deal with, threats to our health. And, if nothing else, the coronavirus is a clear threat to our health. However, our evolved sense of anxiety was not designed to respond reasonably to the constant social media posts and 24-hour news coverage that now amplifies our anxiety of threats such as the coronavirus.

"We all need to take precautions against the virus, but the anxiety that it causes shouldn’t prevent us from living our lives in the meantime.” 

So, if the virus has you feeling overwhelmed, then here are Dr Lockhart’s three tips to help keep your corona-anxiety in check

1. Focus on what you can influence (and what you can't).

Try to focus on things that you can actually do something about. There is a growing body of research to suggest that anxiety is there to motivate us to act. Specifically, it’s there to make us prepare for and deal with threats. So, by actually doing something, you can satisfy your brain’s need for preparatory action and allay some of your anxiety.

Health experts are recommending that we exercise, eat well, follow Government social distancing guidance. These precautions will not only strengthen your immune system and minimise your risk of exposure but will also reassure your brain that you have taken the necessary precautions to deal with the threat, therefore leading it to reduce your anxiety levels.

2. Getting good sleep matters, it really does!

Try to maintain good sleep hygiene. High quality sleep is a simple, yet tragically underappreciated, way of maintaining a healthy body and mind. Missing even an hour or two of your 8 hours a night can lead to significant decreases in emotional stability and increases in unnecessary anxiety. Even worse, when sleep-deprived, our brains have a tendency to over-estimate threats and so are more likely to agonise over the dangers of the virus. Therefore, as simple as it is, getting a good night’s sleep might be one of the best solutions to corona-anxiety. Admittedly though, sleep can be difficult for many of us. To help with this, leading sleep experts advise that we set an alarm for when to go to bed, avoid screens and caffeine before bed and keep bedrooms cool (about 18 degrees), dark and quiet. If you’re working from home because of the virus, then why not use the time saved on your commute for an extra hour or two in bed? Your anxiety levels might just thank you for it.

3. Routines are still important.

Finally, it’s important to adapt and reintroduce routines and positive experiences as quickly as possible. The coronavirus is forcing many of us to disrupt our daily routines and cancel our social events. Reintroducing strict routines will reassure your brain that everything is under control and will reduce anxiety. Similarly, holding social events over safe mediums, such as voice or video calls or in small groups, will enable a semblance of normality, support and reassurance.

Finally, plan some activities that you can lose yourself in, to give your mind some breathing space. After all, we do need to be careful of the virus, but we can’t let it rule our lives.


Interested in psychology? Why not take a look at one of Arden's courses.