The unpredictability of the coronavirus can lead to symptoms of anxiety. But a few quick tips can help you cope.

The onset of the coronavirus filled all our lives with unpredictability and fear.

The constant danger of exposure to an unseen virus, the social isolation, and the barrage of conflicting information intensified anxiety for some and introduced it to the lives of others.

Whether you’ve experienced anxiety for years or are just learning how anxiety feels, there are ways to cope with your symptoms.

Coronavirus anxiety is the fear and anxiety you might experience about COVID-19.

This anxiety about the pandemic can manifest in a couple of ways. There’s the anxiety you might experience after a COVID-19 diagnosis. Then there’s the mental health impact of isolation due to the pandemic that anyone can experience whether or not they contracted the virus.

Changing guidelines and information, rising daily number counts, isolation, and a growing sense of vulnerability can push this anxiety to interfere with daily life.

A 2020 study found that those who developed COVID-19 had an increased chance of developing mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. They face isolation, ongoing health problems and may face the illness or loss of loved ones who also may contract the virus.

Those with coronavirus anxiety may avoid going to the grocery store, work, or social gatherings. They may repeat the possibility of contracting the virus in their minds over and over again.

This could lead to a new phenomenon known as coronaphobia.

Many people experienced anxiety as numbers of those contracting the virus started to rise and lockdowns increased.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that the average anxiety severity score increased by 13% from mid-August 2020 to December 2020, which was the height of the pandemic.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global prevalence of anxiety and depression has increased by 25% since the beginning of the pandemic.

If you’re experiencing coronavirus anxiety, there are strategies you can try to manage your symptoms.

Read the news but don’t obsess

It’s valuable to stay up to date on recent news and events. But obsessively scrolling through headline after headline can feed repetitive thinking.

The CDC recommends setting a limit to checking the news only a couple of times a day. Try setting a time limit or set a goal to read the news for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening.

Focus on the things you can control

The coronavirus can cause an overwhelming sense of vulnerability and lack of control.

Try to focus on the things that you can do, such as:

  • washing your hands regularly throughout the day
  • using hand sanitizer
  • wearing a mask in public places
  • eating a balanced diet
  • getting quality sleep each night

These behaviors promote good hygiene or support a healthy immune system.

Develop mindful acceptance

A 2021 study found that individuals who mindfully approached their feelings reported less anxiety about the coronavirus.

Mindfulness practices involve learning to be present in the moment and recognizing how you feel. You can apply this practice to the current coronavirus pandemic by accepting reality as it is now.

Mindfulness teaches you how to accept your thoughts and feelings to reduce overall emotional distress.

If you’re unsure where to start, several meditation apps — such as Calm and Headspace — can help you learn how to meditate at home.

Practice deep breathing

Your autonomic nervous system triggers the fight, flight, or freeze response associated with anxiety.

A 2021 study suggests that deep breathing can increase blood oxygen levels and help reconnect your mind and body, thereby reducing this response.

Deep breathing is more than the typical in and out exhalations. When you breathe in, try to extend the belly so the diaphragm can pull more air into the lungs. Then slowly exhale, letting the belly deflate.

If you need a little help setting a breathing cadence, try the free iBreathe app or meditation apps such as Headspace that include deep breathing exercises.

Stay connected

Isolation can contribute to feelings of anxiety.

Reaching out to loved ones can help — whether that’s setting a date with friends to meet for coffee or drinks or setting up a family video chat each week.

Friends and family can often act as listening ears when anxiety feels overwhelming.

Distance from social media

Social media can be a great way to connect with family and friends and build a sense of belongingness with peers and coworkers.

But too much social media use can have an adverse impact on your mental health, according to a 2021 study.

Social media algorithms can also fill your feed with headlines that can feed anxiety-inducing thoughts. Try to be aware of your social media use.

Try to set limits for scrolling social media. You can also install apps that monitor or limit your use of certain apps.

Take care of your body

Try to eat a balanced diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains.

A 2019 study found that processed sugar may contribute to or worsen anxiety symptoms. Too much caffeine may also increase the chance of anxiety, particularly among women, according to a 2022 study.

The CDC also recommends that you try to get plenty of sleep and make time for regular exercise.

Exercise can trigger the release of feel-good endorphins, so taking a walk, doing some yoga, or trying a new exercise may help boost your mood.

If coronavirus anxiety is impacting your life and self-care methods aren’t working, a mental health professional can be an invaluable resource.

If you’re unsure where to start, you can talk with a healthcare professional. They can help determine whether there’s an underlying cause for your symptoms and refer you to a mental health professional if needed.

You can also check with your health insurance provider if you have one. They may also have resources you can use.

Talking with others who are having similar experiences might also help. You can connect with others on free forums such as:

Still not sure where to start? You can check out Psych Central’s hub for finding mental health support.

Coronavirus anxiety can look different from person to person. It can be experienced after a COVID-19 diagnosis or due to the pandemic. It may also be related to concerns about family members contracting the virus or ongoing changes related to COVID-19.

If coronavirus anxiety adversely impacts your daily life, there are ways to cope.

Mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, and a healthy lifestyle are among the most accessible coping methods. Reaching out to friends and family to maintain your social support can also help.

A mental health professional can provide support and treatment options beyond self-help measures.