Ask Jigsaw: Coronavirus health anxiety| Advice for Young People

Ask Jigsaw: How to cope with Coronavirus health anxiety?

How to cope with health anxiety? I’m always such a hypochondriac, and I regularly experience bad anxiety over symptoms I convince myself I have. With Coronavirus rampant at the moment I’m feeling worse than ever. I’m not sleeping and my mind is constantly on whether I’m coughing or if I’m feeling a bit warmer than usual. Honestly just feeling so scared and drained, I really don’t know how to cope :/

 

The challenge in the face of Covid-19 is to maintain a balance between awareness and vigilance, and hyper-arousal.

Aisling, Jigsaw Clinician

Hi,

You are not on your own with feeling anxious about Covid-19. It’s hard to switch off from the news and information about escalating rates of infection. It is natural to turn our attention to ourselves and our loved ones. We may worry about getting sick, particularly if we have previously been anxious about our health.

When we are faced with a threat, our ‘fight or flight’ response can be triggered. This means that we experience physical symptoms of anxiety, as well as worrying thoughts and feelings. The challenge in the face of Covid-19 is to maintain a balance between awareness and vigilance, and hyper-arousal.

First of all, the HSE is really clear about what the symptoms of Coronavirus are. Don’t google lots of sites and forums looking for examples of what you are feeling yourself. There are lots of personal stories and suggestions on various threads, however, there is no way of authenticating these. Official government and health department information should be the only source you use for details about the virus.

Keep a log of how many times you ask for reassurance about your health and try to reduce the number each day.

Aisling, Jigsaw Clinician

Some of the things we do to reassure ourselves about health concerns can be counter-productive. For example, checking for symptoms can add to our worry. By focusing on specific parts of our body or sensations, things that are normal can begin to feel worrying. You might notice if you focus on your heartbeat, it can begin to speed up. If you start thinking about your temperature you begin to feel sweaty. If you find yourself constantly checking for symptoms, perhaps try to limit this to once or twice a day.

Similarly, we can often seek reassurance from others, asking them whether we feel hot or should we be worried. This can seem to help in the short term, but can become a habit that we begin to rely on. Keep a log of how many times you ask for reassurance about your health and try to reduce the number each day. Set yourself a limit and aim to stick to this.

Worry Time

While our routines have changed, we have lots of time to worry. Our thoughts can spiral out of control. We begin to imagine the worst and predict that terrible things will happen. If you find yourself doing this, you could set aside a particular amount of time each day to concentrate on the worrying thoughts.

Set aside an hour in the evening where you can really focus on your worries and think them through. If worrying thoughts pop into your head during the day, assign them to your worry time later and try to distract yourself. During your worry time, write down the thoughts you are having and examine them in a balanced way. Look for hard evidence for and against the thought. Aim to replace it with something a little more reassuring. Read more about managing anxiety.

It is a really worrying time for everyone, so be compassionate with yourself. Your anxiety is understandable but not helpful. Know that this difficult time will pass, and trust you have the strength to get through. If you need to reach out to talk to someone, Samaritans are available on 116 123 or Crisis Text Line, text TALK to 086 1800 280.

Take care,

Aisling, Jigsaw Clinician

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