Anxiety management during the pandemic

Pandemic means an infectious disease that spreads over a wide area and threatens the health of many people.[1] . Pandemics cause many people to get sick and die. In addition to the effects of pandemics on our physiological health, the stress they cause affects us emotionally.

While experiencing losses due to the pandemic, being isolated, falling into financial difficulties, being exposed to worrying news every day, create psychological problems for some people, it can also act as a trigger for people who have previously been diagnosed with psychological disorders. Depression, anxiety disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may especially increase during this period.[2].

For some people, the anxiety they experience is seen in the early stages of the pandemic and disappears over time as they adapt to new conditions. However, in some people it persists for a long time.[3] . Even after the epidemic is over, traumatic stress symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, avoiding events, places and people that remind the epidemic, and blaming oneself and others can be seen.[4] . In addition, burnout syndrome can be seen in healthcare workers such as doctors, nurses, nurses, technicians, who work intensely during the epidemic and are under extreme stress.[5].

by Steven Tayor The Psychology of PandemicsIn his book, it is said that those who have certain personality traits will be more negatively affected by stress during the epidemic.[6] . One of them is neuroticism, a personality trait called ’emotional inconsistency’. In these people, emotions such as anxiety and irritability are felt more intensely, and depressive symptoms such as reluctance, not enjoying life, not being able to find meaning, insomnia or excessive sleep, loss of appetite or excessive appetite appear more easily in the face of stressful situations.[7] . Susceptibility to anxiety, intolerance to uncertainty, and exaggerated threat perception are the factors that affect people to be more anxious and depressed during the epidemic. However, what kind of coping strategy people use in the face of these situations that trigger anxiety determines whether the resulting anxiety will continue.[8] . Some people, who feel the fear of getting an infection or infecting people, are overly sensitive about cleaning because they believe that they are protected from the disease. Behaviors such as washing your hands for a long time, washing your hands too often, using too much soap/cologne/hand sanitizer/antibacterial wet wipes, washing with extremely hot water, cleaning the things that come to the house many times, for hours, and even washing your body with chemicals that should not be used on the skin, such as bleach. visible. Some of the people who have health concerns do not over-observe themselves in order to reduce this anxiety.[9] . They frequently engage in behaviors such as taking temperature, checking their throat, listening to their breathing, reading signs of illness on the internet, and checking to see if these symptoms are present. Unfortunately, these behaviors often cause panic instead of reducing anxiety, because those with health concerns misinterpret symptoms such as fatigue, muscle pain, insomnia and think that they are symptoms of a great and deadly disease.[10] . Another behavior seen in those with health concerns is reassurance-seeking behaviors such as frequently going to the emergency room or making an appointment with the doctor, getting confirmation from their relatives, and getting medical tests.

When anxiety is proportional to the conditions we are in, it enables us to protect ourselves, that is, to survive. Therefore, seeing anxiety as a negative emotion and trying to get rid of it is not actually a way to help us.[11] . However, people who are prone to anxiety generally have a high perception of threat, think that what they perceive as a threat at that time is uncontrollable, and the belief that they do not have the resources to cope with this threat causes anxiety in these people.[12] . Therefore, the person engages in some behaviors in order to be more specific and more controllable. Unfortunately, many of the behaviors we do to get rid of anxiety cause that anxiety to continue, increase and a state of panic occurs. The behaviors of taking extreme precautions, checking frequently and getting confirmation, which I just gave an example, cause harm to the person both physically and mentally, even though the person is doing it to feel safe. For example, the behaviors of going to the ED only to relieve anxiety put the person at risk instead of protecting them from the disease. In this period when hospitals are busy and risky, going to the hospital increases the probability of getting sick unless there is an urgent and realistic health problem. It protects us as long as the cleaning and washing behaviors are done at a reasonable level under the conditions we are in, but when it is excessive, the use of excessive cleaning materials and inhaling them indoors damage the skin and lungs of the people. In addition, by consuming his time, he prevents him from engaging in other activities that will be good for him, disrupting his lessons and work.

In order to protect and nurture your psychological well-being in this difficult time we live globally, reducing the behaviors that momentarily reduce anxiety and restlessness, but actually do not protect you in real terms, allows you to see anxiety as a more tolerable emotion and to accept it over time.

– Creating a routine for yourself to live a relatively certain life in this uncertain situation and following them contributes to a more stable and predictable daily life.[13] . Even if you don’t feel like it from time to time, performing the activities you have planned will at least make you feel more competent and positively affect your well-being.[14].

– It is important that you only follow the news briefly, to know how to protect yourself, and not to be exposed to negative scenarios and bitter news for a long time. It is enough for us to take the measures recommended by the institutions you trust in this regard, such as the Ministry of Health or the World Health Organization.

– The positive effects of social support on mental health are quite high. Although the isolation period prevents face-to-face meeting and contact with our relatives, it is not an obstacle to emotional intimacy. Supporting each other with voice or video calls, taking care of each other, asking how they are and talking about issues other than the epidemic while chatting helps you pass this period more peacefully.

– Regular, mild and moderate exercise helps to cope with psychological problems such as depression and anxiety disorders, while it also has an effect on protecting your psychological health.[15].

– Regular mindfulness meditations during these difficult times are effective in reducing emotional fluctuation and increasing life satisfaction.[16] . There are also studies showing that it strengthens immunity.

As a result, pandemics can harm both physical health and psychological well-being by causing people to become ill, isolated, and lose their relatives and jobs. However, everyone’s responses to these stressors are different. Factors such as low tolerance for anxiety and uncertainty, existing psychiatric problems, and insufficient social support make some people more adversely affected by this situation. If the symptoms you experience related to this situation are at a level that will disrupt your social relations, daily life, work/school, it will be helpful to get support from a specialist.

[1]world Health Organization

[2]The Pyschology of Pandemics, Steven Taylor

[3]The Pyschology of Pandemics, Steven Taylor

[4]American Psychiatric Association

[5]John Everly, Psychological First Aid, Johns Hopkins University Online Course

[6]The Psychology of Pandemics by Steven Taylor

[7] Bolger, N., & Schilling, EA (1991). Personality and the problems of everyday life: The role of neuroticism in exposure and reactivity to daily stressors. Journal of personality, 59(3), 355-386.

[8]Schema Therapy Distinctive Features, Eskhol Rafaeli, David P. Bernstein, Jeffrey E. Young

[9]The Psychology of Pandemics by Steven Taylor

[10]NHS, Health Anxiety

[11]Don’t Think About the Pink Elephant, Zeynep Selvili Çarmıklı

[12] Salcioglu, E. (2020). What is anxiety? Causes of anxiety disorders. Retrieved 11 April 2020, from https://datem.com.tr/gunluk-hayatta-ve-lojik-sorunlarda-anksiyete/

[13]Salcioglu, E., 2020. 9 Effective Ways to Cope With Coronavirus Anxiety – DATEM . [online] DATEM. Available at:

[14]In Panic Attack by David Burns

[15]Motion For Your Mind, World Health Organization

[16]Mindfulness: Finding Peace In A Frantic World, Mark Williams and Danny Penman

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