As part of SANE's COVID-19 mental health series, one of our Help Centre counsellors shares their top tips for coping with anxiety. 

If you’re like most people in Australia, you’ve been dealing with uncertainty and change because of COVID-19. If this has caused you anxiety, you’re not alone. It’s natural to experience challenging emotions during a pandemic. But, if you’re finding you can’t get a break from anxiety, stress and worry, it’s important you have strategies to help you get through. 

1. Recognise anxiety is not good or bad 

Try not to think of your anxiety as 'good' or 'bad'. Anxiety is a natural response – one way your mind and body tries to prepare you for responding to a perceived threat.

The unknown and sudden changes such as lockdowns can seem threatening. You might assume the worst when you’re unsure about the future, which will naturally feel scary. So try to respond to your anxiety without judgment and with some kindness toward yourself. 

2. Name your anxious thoughts and feelings

Believe it or not, naming your anxious thoughts and feelings can lessen their intensity. Labelling a feeling helps separate you from it and reminds you it’s not a permanent state.

When you’re anxious because of COVID-19, you could in fact be feeling a range of things that then become overwhelming. Frustration, loss, disappointment or anger are a few common responses. Try naming your feelings using a list like this and see if it reduces your distress.  

3. Focus on the ‘here and now’ 

The changing nature of responding to COVID-19 means we’re now living with high levels of uncertainty. This can feel overwhelming. Focusing on the ‘here and now’ can be a useful strategy to come back to the present.

Some ways to do this include:

4. Put routines in place

COVID-19 can impact our usual routines for things like work, school, and family and social activities. However, it’s important to try to establish some sort of routine where it's possible.

Routines can give a sense of stability, even in uncertain times. Think about healthy rituals that can structure your day, like:

5. Plan enjoyable activities and connection

If you're in lockdown or limited in what you usually like to do, fun and connection can be difficult to come by. But enjoyment and social connection are important for reducing anxiety. Make sure you get enough of these things, even if they’re as simple as:

6. Limit your intake of COVID-19 news and updates

If you find that reading news or updates makes you anxious, it may be helpful to limit your media intake. You can even choose to take a complete break from news updates, if they’re feeling overwhelming.

If you do want to check the news, try to limit this to reputable sources, such as the Australian Government or World Health Organisation.

7. Trust your ability to manage tough times

Remember, you’ve been through tough times before. Take a moment to write down what got you through these times in your past. Perhaps it was the initial onset of COVID-19, or maybe it was moving house or a relationship ending. Think about your strengths and the tools you used to get through those times. Keep this list within reach for when you’re anxious.

8. Be kind to yourself

Remember that you’re doing the best that you can in challenging times. Try not to judge yourself or compare yourself to how others are coping. Take time to acknowledge what you have achieved – that may be just managing to get through each day.

And lastly, a bonus tip: If you feel overwhelmed, reach out to someone you trust or a service that can support you. SANE counselling support is open from Monday to Friday, 10am–10pm AEST/AEDT. Our team of counsellors are available by phone, web chat and email, so you can comfortably communicate in the way that feels best for you.