Managing Coronavirus (COVID-19) anxiety/stress - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Managing Coronavirus (COVID-19) anxiety/stress

1 Apr 2020

We have all seen the increasing number of COVID-19 cases covered in the media in Australia and around the globe. The constant media coverage in the news and many social media platforms can lead to us feeling fearful, anxious and worried. This is a natural response to uncertainty. It is, however, important at this time for you to focus on your self-care and manage what you can control, such as your thoughts, feelings and behaviours connected COVID-19.

COVID-19: Typical responses

The daily, even hourly updates about COVID-19 and the implications both local and around the globe can feel unbearable. Some of the thoughts, feelings and behaviours you may experience:

  • Stomach ache
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep difficulties (too little/too much or disrupted)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Moodiness (feeling low or sad)
  • Anxious (tense, nervous, jumpy, unable to relax)
  • Irritable or hostile (getting angry over minor things)
  • Fearfulness (afraid to make decisions)
  • Helpless
  • Our thoughts can become overwhelming, negative and pessimistic, confused and disorganised.
  • Making decisions can become much harder and we can become more prone to making mistakes.
  • Exaggerating normal behaviour (hard workers turn into workaholics; quiet people become isolated).
  • Withdrawing (from friends, family and co-workers).
  • Working harder (but getting less done).
  • Blaming others (finding fault, being critical or hard to please).
  • Having fewer stress-free conversations with family and friends.
  • Having fights (about everything and nothing).
  • Sharing fewer satisfying experiences with family and friends.
  • Pretending that nothing is wrong (denial).

What can I control?

Seek out the facts
  • The Australian Government Department of Health website provides up-to-date  medical advice, symptoms, how to protect yourself and others to stop the spread, those at risk, and importantly the National Corona virus helpline, 1800 020 080.
  • The World Health Organisation provides current global facts on COVID-19, myth busters, questions and answers and how protect yourself.
Learn how to protect yourself
  • The Australian Government Department of Health recommends social distancing, self-isolation, avoid public gatherings and practise good hygiene to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Get a COVID-19 vaccination: check your eligibility as the vaccination roll out continues throughout 2021.
  • Think you might have COVID-19 symptoms, want to find where you can go for testing or concerned about someone else, call 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84). 13HEALTH is a free telephone health advice service for Queenslanders. The service is available 24/7.
  • In an emergency, you can call 000 (Triple Zero) for assistance.
Practise self-care
  • Permit yourself to acknowledge and state what and how you are feeling. You can do this by expressing your feelings creatively through painting, dance, music, drawing. You can also chat with others, write in a journal, yoga, listen to music, meditation, read a book, and or practice mindfulness.
  • Take care of your body: Maintain a healthy lifestyle with regular physical exercise (walking around the backyard, Youtube yoga or dance), sleep, rest and good nutrition. Avoid illicit drugs, cigarettes and alcohol.
  • Maintain your routine even if you have lost your job, get out of bed and your PJ’s, shower, take breaks to relax, and continue with the activities you enjoy (eg read a book, continue to study, do exercise at home, etc.)
  • Connect with your supportive network of friends and family – remember this does not need to happen face to face, call your friends or family, use Facetime or Skype.
  • Seek help if you are having problems – don't be afraid to ask for help, everyone has stressful times.
  • Take breaks from news stories, including social media. Constantly checking your media can increase your stress/anxiety.
  • See this as an opportunity to try something new like testing out that recipe, declutter, get to those jobs you have been putting off, read a novel, get creative.
  • Keep everything in perspective. Practice rational thinking rather than worst-case situation. Consider:
    • Am I catastrophising the COVID-19 situation?
    • What can I control?
    • What has helped me in the past to work through difficult situations that can help me now?
    • What is a simple useful activity that I can do now?
    • Everything is shutting down, I’m panicking - think the most important places, such as hospitals, pharmacies, grocery stores remain open.
    • I will get sick - I will use good hygiene practices, self-isolate, not attend public gatherings and this will decrease me getting COVID-19.

Other Resources and support

Beyond Blue online community (a forum that's monitored) to assist people to cope with everything that is going on with COVID-19.

Australian Government, Department of Health website.

TED article on COVID-19.

Dr Russ Harris (Acceptance, Compassion Therapy) and COVID-19:

Mental health and COVID-19 (Phoenix Australia):


  • Anxiety Free: (iPhone – free)
  • Thrive: (feel stress free – free app)
  • Breathe2Relax: (iPhone and Android – free)
  • Smiling minds (free app)
  • Headspace (try for free)
  • Stop, Breathe & Think (free)