No matter how alone you may feel, remember that you are always part of something bigger than yourself: a community…

Do you know anyone who the coronavirus outbreak hasn’t affected? I don’t.

But even for people on the front lines of the virus, the trajectory of the current coronavirus outbreak is full of unknowns – and unknowns equal anxiety.

Anxiety is a normal, understandable emotion, especially when we enter uncharted territory of any kind. After all, it’s our body’s typical reaction to any threat that we perceive.

The media has inundated us with COVID-19 images and warnings, but there isn’t as much information about how to stay calm and find relief during this highly emotional time. The lack of emphasis on self-care is unfortunate given the negative impact that stress can have on our immune system. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways that we can not only contain the COVID-19 virus itself, but also manage the negative impact of the virus on our mental health. If the coronavirus outbreak is stressing you out, follow these five stress management tips:

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1. Remind yourself that we are all interconnected

No matter how alone you may feel, remember that you are always part of something bigger than yourself: a community. Connecting with others virtually during the coronavirus outbreak can strengthen social bonds and help us preserve our immunity. Virtual bonding also helps us fight against depression and anxiety. In a time when professionals encourage social distancing, virtual technology and social media are our heroes. (Thank you, FaceTime!)

2. Remember that we are each responsible for our environment

People typically thrive when they care for others, but self-quarantining is our best defence against such a widespread virus. In other words, staying indoors during this time helps the greater good of the world. While we may not want to avoid public spaces, staying home is one way we can all help one another stay healthy as we battle this crisis.

3. Remember that we have the capacity for compassion, even during a pandemic

Once we feel panic set in, we have two options to choose from: fight or flight. Our brain can’t access the prefrontal cortex, which controls our judgement, so we typically make poor decisions when we’re in a frantic emotional state.

Ignoring reality doesn’t make it go away, though. Instead of stressing out, we can help others, which will take our minds off the panic. Showing compassion towards others diminishes our own anxiety and calms others, too.

4. When you wash your hands, think about someone you love

The Buddhist practice of “metta” (loving kindness) meditation is the brain’s equivalent of hitting “control-alt delete”. During this meditation, people typically recite phrases like, “May we all be happy, may we all be safe, may we all be healthy, may we all live with ease”. Since reciting this phrase two or three times takes about 20 seconds, why not send loving kindness to friends and family while you wash your hands?

5. Try a simple mindfulness exercise to help relieve anxiety and fear

Mindfulness meditation exercises are some of the best stress-relief methods, and the best part is that we can practise mindfulness nearly anywhere. To meditate, you don’t need to sit cross-legged, all zenned out, though.

First, focus on a single part of your body to calm your mind. Then, focus on your breathing or on a single object in the room. Once your mind feels calmer, focus on your thoughts and feelings. Don’t make your negative feelings disappear; just acknowledge them as part of the exercise and focus on the breath.

Remember that there’s no such thing as a “bad” mindfulness moment, so just allow yourself space to explore your thoughts and feelings. And if your mind drifts to the future or the past, bring yourself back to the present.

Individually, we can’t stop the spread of COVID-19, but we can each do our part to help make our world healthier. When you’re stressed, empower yourself to discover how you can help yourself, your family, your friends, and your neighbours.

And, remember, this epidemic will pass.

Originally published on YourTango