Managing Anxiety Associated with COVID-19: 12 Ways You Can Cope

Many people are experiencing understandable increases in anxiety and stress during these uncertain times and this is a very typical and common reaction to have.  Why?  Because we are human and when things are unpredictable and uncontrollable, as they are now, increased levels of anxiety result.  During this unprecedented time, all we can realistically do is focus on what we can control versus what we cannot control.  We need to recognize that we cannot control everything and that no amount of worry is going to change that. We know this can be a lot easier said than done! It’s also important to note that worrying often does not actually change the outcome – even for those of us who are the best worriers out there! So, what can we control during the COVID-19 pandemic?  We can control our thoughts and behaviors and how we manage the anxiety.  There are countless ways of coping with anxiety and it is important to find ways that are helpful for you.  Sometimes a bit of trial and error is needed to determine which strategies are most helpful for you.

Here is a list of 12 ways to manage your anxiety.  We hope you find them helpful!

  1. First and foremost, be kind to yourself!  Go easy on yourself if you are experiencing more anxiety than usual.  You are not alone!  You are doing the best that you can given the difficult circumstances.

  2. Next, look up from this very screen at this moment and take a few deep breaths…Inhale for 5 seconds and Exhale for 5 seconds.  How did that feel?

*Note, if you didn’t try it yet, we would encourage you to take a moment and go ahead and try it, if it feels safe to do so.

  1. Limit media exposure:  Constant monitoring of news and social media feeds can quickly fuel the anxiety. It is, of course, important to be informed, but being informed takes 5 minutes.  If you feel the need to check in, turn to trusted resources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, or your local public health authorities. If you start to feel overwhelmed with the information, step away!

  2. Stick to a routine:  As best as you can, try to stick to your regular sleep, school, meal or work schedule.  This may be difficult if you are at home with kids having to work as well; however, if you can’t stick to your regular schedule, create a new routine for you and your family that best suits your needs.

  3. Maintain daily eating:  Eat meals and snacks and drink water. If you reach for an extra candy or crave more comfort foods – that is OK. It is OK to be in tune with your body, and see what you feel hungry for. If you consistently check in with your body to see if you are hungry, full, thirsty, tired, bored, angry, frustrated etc., you will be able to practice more mindful eating. Again, it is OK to eat food for nourishment (body energy) and for pleasure (because it tastes good!).  What goes in your body affects how you feel physically and mentally so check in with yourself about how you feel when you’re reaching for something.

  4. Take deep breaths and meditate: You have likely heard this countless times, but there is a reason for that!  Deep breathing techniques and meditation are extremely effective.  You can meditate on your own or utilize some guided meditation apps such as Calm or Headspace.

  5. Exercise regularly:  Exercise is proven to produce endorphins, chemicals in the brain that trigger a positive feeling in the body.   About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.   Exercise also improves the ability to sleep which, in turn, reduces stress leading us to our next suggestion…

  6. Get plenty of sleep:  Try to maintain your typical sleep schedule as much as possible.

  7. Connect with others either via phone, a virtual platform (FaceTime, Zoom, Doxy, Skype, etc.), or email.

  8. Make time to unwind:  do activities that provide pleasure and joy; read a good book, watch a comedy, play a board or video game, cook.  Make sure it provides distraction from the worry.

  9. Get outside:  Fresh air and sunshine can be so helpful!  Take a walk or go for a run, ride a bike, shoot hoops!  Just be sure to avoid crowds, maintain a distance of 6 feet from others and obey other area restrictions.

  10. Help others:  During this time, there are so many people in need.  Do what you feel you can to help others and maintain safety in doing so.  Donate to food banks, be a calming influence on others and be kind to others.

If you can recognize that everyone is a bit on edge and possibly more easily triggered than usual, accept it, identify it and let it go if you can.  If you feel as though you need additional support during this trying time, there are plenty of resources available in the next article.  Gaithersburg Counseling Center also has several therapists available to help by providing therapy via virtual platforms.  Please contact us at (240) 274-5680 or email us at  We are here to help in any way possible.  You can also visit our website,, for more information.