How to combat the fear and/or anxiety of COVID-19

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” Medical News Today.

APA defines fear as: n. a basic, intense emotion aroused by the detection of imminent threat, involving an immediate alarm reaction that mobilizes the organism by triggering a set of physiological changes.

According to APA, fear differs from anxiety.

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Fear is a short-term response to an immediate threat. Examples might include fear of walking in a bad neighborhood at night, fear of being attacked, fear of public speaking or fear of jumping off a diving board.  If you’re being attacked or the fear is imminent, flight, fight or freeze may kick in. 

Anxiety has no immediate threat, may be future-oriented and comes from unknown origins. Think of free-floating anxiety without a solid basis. I may be anxious about flying in a few weeks. I don’t have a fear of flying but I am anxious about making all the right connections or whether the weather will cooperate.

So first, identify what you’re feeling. Are you immediately threatened (fear) or is what you’re feeling more free-floating (anxiety)? It wouldn’t be a surprise if you are picking up a lot of feelings during this extremely unusual time that we are experiencing. So much uncertainty about jobs, the corona virus, the economy, worry about friends and family members getting the virus.

If what you are feeling is anxiety, there are many ways to combat it. You may need to try several of them or find one or two that work for you. If your anxiety is at a high or out-of-control state, you may want to visit a licensed therapist.

Here is a list of 15 ideas that may help reduce your anxiety or fear:

Meditation – What is triggering the anxiety? Sit with it. Give it a number from 1-10 with 1 being very little and 10 being the worst anxiety. Where do you feel it in your body? Place your hand over that area. Stomach? Neck? Heart? Breathe into that space. Give the anxiety a voice. What is it saying to you? Ask it a question. Breathe again. Deep calming breaths. When you tune into the anxiety, you take away its power over you. You’re not running from it but towards it. Now check in again about the level of anxiety. Has it gone down at all?

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If you can’t sit and meditate by yourself, find one of the many apps available now!  I listen to my Breethe app before bed. It has several free meditations. Calm is another app to check out. They both offer guided meditations of various lengths .

Get enough rest – this is key. A good night’s sleep can change everything! Worries that I have at bedtime  have little power over me after a restful night’s sleep. I am also a big fan of naps. Are you able to rest for 20 minutes during your slump time? Mine comes in the afternoon.

Read something humorous. Usually before bed, I enjoy scrolling through Facebook for all the memes going around now for Covid-19. The virus isn’t funny but a meme about changing from your day pajamas to your night pajamas kinda is.

Read a book that will engage your mind. Novels, biographies. What holds your interest?

Distract yourself. When that feeling or thought rolls around, move! Clean something, take a walk. BE WHERE YOUR FEET ARE. Getting out of your head and into the present moment reminds us that we are OKAY in THIS moment!  I often remind myself that nothing bad is happening right now.

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Physical exercise is wonderful for moving the energy out of your body. So dance!  Jump around the house. Get your groove on!  Watch one of the many workout videos that are free on

STOP! One of the tools I learned from a therapist when my mind kept ruminating on a problem was to say, “STOP!” Each time my mind would return to ruminate, I would say, “Stop!” Eventually it worked!

Keep your hands busy – crochet, knit, sew. If possible, while watching TV so both your hands and your mind are occupied.

Do something productive – make face masks or come up another way to help others. Can you go food shopping for an elderly neighbor? Can you call your friends who live alone? Thinking about others distracts us from ourselves.

Journal. Writing is always a balm to my soul. Pour out your anxiety on the pages. Let it all out. You can always tear it up or toss it in the fire.

Another writing exercise is to write with your non-dominant hand. Ask your inner self, “What do you want me to know?” or “What are you afraid of?” Then start writing.

Creative Art. You don’t have to be Picasso to experience the benefits of doing something creative. Remember how little children scribble with their crayons? Do that!  Really hard! Other avenues include drawing, painting or collage art.

Talk to someone – a friend, clergy, therapist. I have several spiritual groups that I belong to so I have a list of people to connect with. If I’m going over the edge, I pick up the phone.

Do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel safe such as follow the recommendation to wash hands for 20 second, social distancing, etc.

Sometimes taking any action is better than inaction and freezing.

And remember, prayer always helps!

MORE: Do you have ideas that work for you? Please share in the comments below!

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Stay well, be well.

Angela DiCicco

The Italian Grandmama

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Disclaimer: I am not a therapist. I do not make any claims regarding these ideas or this post.

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