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COVID Coping: Steps for Reducing Your Anxiety

Mar 24, 2020 Walking Dog

The seriousness and reality of the coronavirus (COVID-19) impact has set in. Some people have become ill. Some have lost jobs or are fearful of losing them. And some are just struggling to make it through the day, working or staying at home, trying to keep their families and neighbors safe.

To say that many of us are anxious is an understatement. It’s worth noting that mental well-being is extremely important right now, because it greatly affects our overall well-being.

Here are some actions you can take immediately to support your mental well-being. Feel free to share.

Breathe Consciously

According to integrative medicine expert Dr. Andrew Weil, the 4-7-8 breath (also known as the “relaxing breath”) can almost immediately put you in a more relaxed state. The process takes only seconds. Here are the steps:

1. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whooshing sound.
2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whooshing sound to a count of eight. This is one breath.
5. Inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

You also can watch Dr. Weil demonstrate his anxiety-reducing breathing technique.

Choose Your Thoughts

Have you heard the saying “think about what you’re thinking about”? American philosopher and educator William James said:

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.

What are you thinking about today? Where are your thoughts drifting? Are they helpful?

One of my favorite books, Thoughts That Make Your Heart Sing, by Sally Lloyd Jones, contains a useful analogy. Bad thoughts, she says, sometimes come to mind out of nowhere, like a bird landing on your head. You have a choice. You can let that bird—those bad thoughts—build a nest in your hair, or not.

Troubling thoughts will come—worst-case scenarios, fear, resentment and annoyance. But you don’t have to ruminate on those negative thoughts; they only make the situation worse. Replace them with positive thoughts instead. What are you grateful for today? What are you able to do? Don’t let birds make a nest on your head.

If you are having trouble forming your own positive thoughts, get help from author and educator Jon Gordon. Sign up for his daily positive message here.

Take One Day at a Time

The uncertainty around the COVID-19 crisis can be overwhelming. Instead of wondering how long it will take for things to return to normal, take each day as is comes.

Focus on what you can control. Make a list. My list looks like this:

What I can control —

  • My thoughts
  • My attitude
  • My response to my family members
  • Reaching out to stay connected virtually to others
  • Washing my hands
  • Taking the precautions to keep myself and others safe
  • What I intellectually consume (news, media, etc.)
  • Practicing self-care

I can’t control the pandemic, the government’s actions, the actions of others or the weather. So, I will control what I can control … and I’ll look for opportunities.

Don’t Miss This Opportunity

When quarantining is behind us, what will you wish you had done during—and with—this time? What do you want to look back on and be proud of?

Maybe it’s starting a new, healthy habit or rekindling a hobby. Maybe it’s getting back to quality family time—taking the time to really listen to your spouse and your kids. Who are they becoming? What are their fears and dreams? Maybe we were too busy working and phone scrolling to stop and ask these questions a couple weeks ago.

Let’s take these lemons that life has handed us and make some amazing lemonade. In my house, we’ll be doing that figuratively and literally. My kids are going to be amazed that lemonade comes from actual lemons and not just a packet or bottle at the store.

Get Outside

Did you know that physical exercise has been proven to enhance mental well-being? And good news here—walking outside is still a COVID-19-compliant activity.

According to Dr. Andrew Weil, walking is good for your body, mind and spirit. Some of the benefits include:

  • Less stress. A 30-minute walk done three times per week can boost mood and help to address stress.
  • Body maintenance. Several studies have shown that walking between 8,000 to 10,000 steps per day—about four to five miles—can be an effective way to lose or maintain weight.
  • Improved social well-being. Even during social isolation, you can schedule a phone call on your walk and catch up with friends and family. Your parents or grandparents would love to hear from you right now.

Walking may be one of the best things you can do for yourself during this pandemic.

Take Care of You

It sounds simple, but in this “new normal” environment, you may have discovered how easy it is to forget to shower, to eat nourishing meals or even to take proper breaks. Our days have been disrupted, especially for those who suddenly became required to work from home, who no longer have a job or who are now on the front lines of the virus battle.

So, consider setting a new routine during the week. Practice self-care, get some sleep and eat well.

We can do good for others only if we take care of ourselves.

The basics matter, because physical health impacts mental health.

Remember: We’re in This Together

I’ll leave you with this thought from one of my favorite authors, the amazing Brené Brown. In her book Dare to Lead, she wrote, “I know my life is better when I work from the assumption that everyone is doing the best they can.”

We are all doing the best we can. Even if you’re skeptical of that statement, people who believe that have better mental well-being.

Let’s give ourselves and our quarantined loved ones grace and understanding as we all wait for our lives to return to (almost) normal.

Visit the Hylant Coronavirus Resource Center at to access a wide variety of materials designed to help you navigate these unprecedented times.

Author Maddison Bezdicek, Health Strategies Practice Leader, Hylant Employee Benefits Practice