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Advice From a Therapist on Managing Anxiety and Loneliness During Coronavirus

While there’s still much we don’t know about how coronavirus (COVID-19) will affect us long-term, there are ways to handle day-to-day worries about its spread and the isolation of quarantine.

In some parts of the world, including but not limited to the Chinese city of Wuhan and several provinces of Italy, quarantine has already become a way of life. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads, residents of other countries, including the U.S., are preparing for the worst, stocking up on household essentials and anticipating similar lockdowns.

Epidemics can affect the mental health of those untouched by the virus itself, causing anxiety and fear for the future — as well as loneliness as a result of isolation, whether you’re quarantined as a precaution or mandate. Bumble talked to Dr. Amy Cirbus, psychologist and director of clinical content at online and mobile therapy company Talkspace, for advice on managing these feelings. Here are her tips.

Remember that you’re not alone. So many other people share your fears of the unknown, and of loneliness. Even if you’re physically alone, you’re not alone in your feelings. 

Acknowledge that you’re scared. Being honest about your fears and discussing them will decrease that feeling of isolation. And keep in mind that this will be time-limited. This won’t be forever.

Stay connected with your community. Keep up your normal phone or digital communication habits. Talk about how you feel, even if it’s with just one or two people you really trust. 

Get informed, then step away. There is no need to constantly talk about the virus, nor to be glued to the news cycle. Pick one to three times per day when you’re going to check the news so you stay aware and can reassure yourself. Then stick to that. There are a lot of armchair experts. Ignore them, and remember there are real experts working on keeping us all safe. 

Treat yourself like it’s Sunday night. If you’re feeling anxious or isolated, think of the things you’d normally do to relax or enjoy downtime on a Sunday night. Would you read a book? Meditate? Rearrange your drawers? If you can’t concentrate at first, that’s ok — it’s hard! This requires a mental shift. Keep trying, and don’t pace around your apartment. 

Take the time to reflect. We don’t always have, or take, the time to sit down and think about our relationships with ourselves and with others. Maybe this is a good time to reflect. Start journaling if you’ve wanted to but haven’t. Think about who it is that you want to connect with. Which of your relationships do you value, and why? 

Follow through. Were you supposed to go on a date? Make it a virtual one! Continue on as normal as much as possible. This is your life. It’ll go on.