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Keeping Calm Through Corona: Tips from a CBT Therapist

It's hard not to have heard about what is going on in the world at the moment with regards to the corona virus (Covid 19). Whilst news of this outbreak has been understandably concerning for many it has had a more severe impact on the mental health of others, especially those with existing mental health issues.

There are a lot of uncertainties at the moment – if and how the virus will effect us and our families, whether we will have to self-isolate, whether we will have enough food, the impact this will have on our livelihoods and so much more. When we are faced with a lot of uncertainties it can create anxiety for many people.

Whilst it is important to stay informed about what is happening in the UK we also need to manage our mental health so that we can get through these next few challenging months with strength and resilience. The following tips can help to stay calm and find balance despite what is going on around us:

1) Distinguish between what you can and can't control

When we are going through any challenging situation, distinguishing between what we can and can't control can help us to manage how anxious we feel. Things that we can control include preparing for potential future isolation, limiting how much attention we pay to the media, focusing on the facts of the situation and not assuming the worst case scenario and these can all help us to feel more in control and less anxious.

Trying to control the things that we can't can strengthen beliefs about not being in control and lead to further anxiety. Things we can't control include the decisions that are made by the government and whether we, our family members pr those in our communities will contract the virus. These are worrying times for many so focusing on the things that we can do something about will help us to feel more in control and less anxious.

2) Check-in With How You Are Feeling

Many people are reporting that one of their main worries is how they will cope with the anxiety around the Corona outbreak. Regularly check in with how you are feeling and coping and if you are feeling anxious do something to help yourself to relax. Read a book, watch a feel-good movie, take a walk, do some yoga, breathing exercises or any other relaxation exercise that you find helpful.

3) Stay Connected With Others

Some people are already in self-isolation and this figure may grow over the coming weeks. Make sure you have the contact details of your friends and family and that you check-in regularly with those that are potentially more vulnerable within your community. If you are worried about being alone then try and prepare in advance by reaching out to your community, friends or family or see details below of organisations you can contact for support.

If there is a chance that you have come into contact with the virus or you are self-isolating for other reasons make sure to plan how you will spend your time. This may be a daunting prospect but making a daily plan that includes activities that give you a sense of pleasure or achievement can help keep your spirits up.

We can chose to make the most of this challenging time and look after our mental health by getting creative with how we spend our time. Examples include finding exercise programs to do from home, making sure that friends and family can stay connected with you online and looking up activities you can do with your children if housebound. If you have a weekly bridge game, book club, zumba class or playgroup you enjoy, explore what opportunities exist for moving these online for a while.

4) Manage how much time you spend listening to the news and on social media

If we focus too much attention on Corona news and it becomes our sole focus it can become overwhelming. There is a lot of speculation at the moment which can also further fuel anxiety. Limit the time you spend listening to the news and reading social media posts and chose your sources wisely. Whilst it's important to stay abreast of the facts from good quality sources any more than this can blow the issue out of proportion and raise anxiety levels unecessarily. If you notice that you are feeling anxious, take time away from the news and focus on looking after yourself or those around you.

5) Manage Your Choices

There have been many news stories about people panic-buying from supermarkets and anti-bacterial handgel having been sold out. It is important to make sure that our behaviours reflect the reality of the situation. If we fall down a rabbit-hole of unhelpful behaviours like excessive hand washing and excessive panic-buying it can make the situation feel even further out of our control, leading to even more anxiety. It is important to follow the advice we have been given and trust that this is sufficient to ensure we are as safe as possible. Not giving in to urges based on fear, rather than reality, can help keep the risks we are facing in perspective.

Focusing on keeping as healthy as possible through healthy lifestyle choices such as eating well, limiting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption can all help give ourselves the best chance of remaining well over the coming months.

6) Beliefs about coping

Ultimately the difference in how we get through these uncertain times will come down to how we think about the situation and how we think about our ability to deal with it. We can't predict the future and if we focus on our fears and uncertainty and doubt our ability to cope with what will happen we will feel very anxious. If we focus instead on the present and what we can control as well as our strengths, resilience and ability to cope with challenges then together we will get through this difficult time with more calm and ease.

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