Covid 19 is a horrible illness and best avoided where possible. Any reasonable person would feel nervous at the thought of getting a bad dose of this disease. For some people the risk is greater than for others, either because they are frontline staff or due to their age or ill health. For others the risk, although real, is less. So it is important that your response is in proportion to the level of risk that you face. That proportionate response applies as much to your stress levels as it does to how you behave. It is reasonable and appropriate to adapt and check your behaviour more frequently than you normally would. But how much is too much?
Ensure you stick to the guidelines relating to washing hands and avoiding touching surfaces when out. And it is appropriate and reasonable to keep your distance from others when out of your household. But a problem can arise if your thinking or behaviour changes have become so excessive that you are constantly agitated and distressed. Over-vigilance and over checking in a minority of people, who are not in the highest risk categories, can prevent you even noticing real risk and danger. If you feel this applies to you it is important to reduce that high stress. So how much vigilance is too much?
1. Ask yourself if your reasonable precautions are in line with guidelines and with other people you respect? 2. Consider the following: You take risks every day in your life without even realising it. Every time you cross a road, eat food, or do almost anything there is a risk that something can go wrong. But you still do so while taking reasonable precautions to avoid danger. Apply that standard here. Control what you can, and prepare a plan for dealing with any unexpected events.
It is not possible to avoid all risk in life. To avoid all risk we would have to remain withdrawn from all actions and interactions. Frankly, life would be impossible. Trying to avoid every risk also implies that you can somehow control everything in life. But think about it. That is just not possible. No-one can. This is also a real risk for high stress and anxiety. Instead of always trying to ensure that everything will go right, you can also minimise risk by creating a plan of action for what do if/when things go wrong. For example, in these Covid circumstances, if you accidentally touch something you should not touch, or come into closer contact with someone than recommended, then plan in advance what you would do. Having a plan is reassuring and is why we have fire-alarm practice or emergency evacuation plans. Knowing what to do when things go wrong keeps you safer and less anxious. If you feel overly anxious you could make a list now of the procedures you would go through in those circumstances. Some examples are using hand sanitizer or wiping your face and eyes with a pre-soaked cloth. Hopefully you do not have to use these procedures but knowing you have a plan of action should increase your confidence and reduce your stress when you are out.
To avoid agoraphobia (fear of the outside) it is important that you push your self-imposed boundaries a little. Go outside even for a brief spell and even if it is only when there are very few people around. Use the tips on the "Making Changes" page to help you avoid the danger of this high anxiety. This type of anxiety can develop out of habit and withdrawal. Have you ever been ill and had to stay in bed for a week or two? If so you will recognise that when you recover and go out, the world can seem a bigger place than before. That can be scary and cause you to withdraw even more. But remember, stick to the guidelines and don't impose stricter ones on yourself than is dictated by science and professional advice. Practice going outside.
Identify supports and use them. Maintain social contact through phone calls or video links. Feeling socially isolated is one downside of Covid 19 anxiety but it is not really necessary. Some people are finding they have more contact with people as they have an opportunity (and an excuse) to contact and check up on people they have not spoken to in a long while. If you feel your social links are limited then this could be the time to build them up again. Are there people that you could phone and turn this social distance into something positive? Another opportunity is to to join any of the online classes such as book groups, fitness classes and art classes. You can increase your social function and create new communities for yourself without ever leaving home. By doing so you will feel less anxious and more connected.
Don't believe everything you read or hear. Check your sources and look for means to verify information before you accept it as true. Social media are great but remember they are unregulated. That means that a lot of fear-filled information can be put up and is often totally untrue. For some reason, maybe because it catches less attention, this does not usually consist of fake good news stories. People are free to spread rumour. If you find you are reading obsessively try and avoid this. Limit your sources to verifiable news sources. Limit the time you spend reading about Covid 19 so that you know the important facts but don't get drawn into reading or listening to every bad news story.
On other pages here you will find tips about stress which can be applied to reducing Covid 19 anxiety. Check them out. Take exercise, distract yourself, plan something pleasureable, and learn to relax.