Why are so many
people feeling anxious about COVID-19?
The perception of uncertainty and the perception of the threat
of potential harm to each one of us activates our survival responses. In other
words, it makes us anxious.
Is the fear
Yes, it is justified. However, it can become
counterproductive and unhelpful if it becomes pervasive and interferes with our
Are certain people at
a higher risk of pandemic-related anxiety?
Yes, people with a prior history of excessive worry or
difficulties coping with uncertainty are more likely to become anxious and
How can people tell
when their anxiety level is problematic?
It becomes excessive when it starts interfering with one’s
social and professional activities or relationships.
What can people do to
help control anxiety?
I would suggest taking time-outs from news and media
coverage, and putting an increased focus on self-care. Physical activity is
helpful. There is a warning not to participate in physical activity in group
settings, but you can engage in activities outdoors, such as going for a run.
Also, spending time with family and doing anything that has been helpful in the
past during times of increased stress. If we review our history, typically we
find two or three things that have helped us in the past.
When should people
seek professional help? When the level of distress interferes with our daily activities. Difficulty
focusing on a task at hand, disrupted sleep, changes in appetite, decreased
energy -- if all of these things come together and persist, it could be a
signal to get some professional advice on how to cope more effectively with the
How should parents
and teachers talk to children who are feeling anxious?
Validate and normalize children’s feelings of anxiety and
worry about the virus, and do not assume that you know or understand what they
are afraid of. Be curious and supportive by sharing your own feelings of
anxiety or frustration, encourage and model trying new and different activities
while staying home.