Managing stress and anxiety about the coronavirus

Wherever you go, whatever you do, whomever you talk to, one thing seems to be the topic of the hour: the coronavirus. 

The media is in a frenzy. So is social media. So are families chatting over dinner.  The fear and panic surrounding the virus is, for many, more frightening than the illness itself. 

Can you set the record straight? What exactly is the Coronavirus?

Thanks to so much exposure on television, radio, print and across social media channels worldwide, there seems to be much confusion on the virus and exactly what it is. 

Coronaviruses are actually a large family of viruses. They cause illnesses like the common cold, as well as more severe and serious diseases like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (better known as SARS). You might have read this coronavirus referred to as the novel coronavirus, and that’s because it’s the newest strain, not identified in human beings before. Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people (the term for this is zoonotic). There are actually coronaviruses that are found in animals that haven’t yet infected human beings. 

The most common symptoms of a coronavirus infection are cough, fever, breathing problems, shortness of breath and other respiratory issues. In extreme cases, it can result in pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death.

Anxiety about the virus in the workplace

Around the country -- actually, around the globe -- people are in various states of distress. Some are concerned about contracting the virus and being unable to work; others are worried they’re carriers and will pass it on to others. Others are anxious because there’s so much information (and misinformation) in the news and around the watercooler, and they no longer know what to believe.

Arm yourself with knowledge. It’s tempting to believe your colleague, who claims to be an expert on all things COVID-19, but given that there’s a lot about the virus even experts don’t know, ensure that your workplace is only distributing information from valid, trusted sources. If you’re a supervisor or in a leadership role, advise your team on the coronavirus using information that has been provided to you by accredited expert sources. Share what the signs and symptoms are, how the virus is contracted, and what steps to take to ensure that risks are minimized. 

Establish prevention methods and protocols. What will your workplace do in the event your staff may have been exposed to the virus? What have you put in place to make sure your staff is safe? Have you made soap and hand sanitizer available for their use and that of the general public? Does your staff know to seek medical attention if or when they feel sick?

Give them access to preventative measures. Your workplace should have sufficient items on hand like soap, hand sanitizer, gloves and tissues. Remind them that handwashing is still one of the most recommended forms of prevention for this disease. 

Let your employees work remotely. All work-related travel should be canceled or postponed until the risk is minimized or eliminated.  Encourage your staff to stay home if possible. 

Anxiety about the virus at home

Again, stay educated. This doesn’t mean asking -- or listening -- to your uncle’s neighbor’s brother’s friend, who says he knows everything about the virus. He may or may not, so it’s best practice to turn to only reputable, credible sources for information regarding the virus. Stay informed, but don’t give in to panic -- perspective is key at this time. 

Remember joy. Despite the news, life does continue. You are not in this virus; the world is not the virus. Every day, life moves on -- and it’s a good idea to look at it from a different perspective than what the media may be painting for us. Take a look at the kids around you laughing, soak in time and conversations with the ones you love, and use your energy to do something you’ve always wanted to do but never had time for. 

Stay safe, of course. We’re being asked to socially distance, but that doesn’t mean we don’t communicate with others. Hop on the phone or video chat with those you love from miles away. Virtual communication doesn’t have to mean impersonal; it’s just a different way of talking to people. 

Connect. On a similar note, make sure you have a support network of people you can lean on in times like this. They may be people you live with, or people you love who may just happen to live in other states. It’s a great idea to connect with happy, positive, hopeful people, too -- it makes this chaos clearer!

Take note of your coping skills, like mindfulness, and use them. If you feel your  anxiety rising, call upon all the tools in your kit to minimize your suffering. Practice mindfulness or meditation exercises, breathing or journaling, and get yourself into a state of calm. If you can’t do it on your own, additional support is out there. Therapists often offer virtual meetings or phone meetings, so you’ll never have to feel alone. 

Exercise. Exercise has long been praised as a great way to reduce stress and alleviate anxiety, and at a time like now, when we’re being forced to stay away from restaurants, bars, theaters and other venues where there are a large group of people, exercise is a fantastic thing that we can do alone -- and that feels good! 

If you’re experiencing worry, stress and panic over COVID-19, we’re here for you. Visit us at


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