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Coronavirus Anxiety: How to Cope with Stress, Panic & Self-Isolation

1 month, 3 weeks ago

1744  0
Posted on Apr 07, 2020, 2 p.m.

With coronavirus dominating everyone’s lives and upending any sense of normalcy and routine, it only makes sense to experience sleep disruptions. The stress, panic, and anxiety over the global pandemic has spawned an array of sleep disorders, from insomnia to irregular sleep patterns to sleeping more than normal. Add in schedule changes brought on by working from home, trying to home school children, and stay entertained while isolating at home, and sleep is quickly becoming yet another casualty of COVID-19, even among those who normally don’t struggle with sleep.

Unfortunately, the lifestyle changes that the pandemic response demands are leading many people to engage in behaviors that are counterproductive to their sleep. After all, when you don’t have to get up early for work or school, there’s no reason not to binge on “Tiger King” or the newest season of “Ozark.” Even if you aren’t getting caught up in a television series, it’s likely that your days aren’t following their typical rhythm. Instead of working from 8 to 5, you may be spending your evenings catching up on remote work and sleep takes a backseat. 

The good news is that this pandemic won’t last forever. The bad news is that the longer we’re faced with shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders, the more challenging it may be to return to normal routines. For that reason, it’s important to develop good habits for coping with stress and anxiety -- and that includes maintaining good sleep habits.

In fact, maintaining good sleep habits can even help you maintain immunity to illness. Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick when exposed to a virus, so following these tips for managing your anxiety and getting sleep can help you weather this crisis and return to normal more successfully. 

6 Ways to Sleep When You Have Coronavirus Anxiety

Maintain a Consistent Routine 

As much as you can, try to maintain your typical sleep routine, going to bed and waking at your normal times. As tempting as it is to stay in bed, maintaining your regular patterns can help you retain a sense of normalcy that reduces stress, and ensures you maintain a healthy sleep cycle. Not to mention, when the restrictions are lifted, staying on your normal cycle ensures you won’t have to reestablish your old patterns later. 

Keep Work Out of the Bedroom

One of the foundations of good sleep hygiene is to reserve the bedroom for sleep and sex only, and avoid working, watching television, or other activities. Avoid working in your bedroom (especially in bed) to keep work and sleep separate and avoid creating associations with stress that keep you awake. 

Stay Active

You may not be able to keep up with your normal fitness routine right now, but that doesn’t mean you should turn into a couch potato. Staying active not only helps regulate your sleep cycle, it also releases feel-good brain chemicals that can help you better manage your anxiety and stress. Take a walk, have a family dance party, or tackle some yard work outdoors to burn off excess energy and get your mind off of the news for a while. 

Turn Off the News

The news these days is often grim, and following the daily briefings, updates, and predictions can send even the most level-headed person into a tailspin of anxiety and panic. And it’s not just information overload that’s contributing to sleep disruption. When you spend hours glued to your devices looking for updates, the increased levels of blue light disrupt your body’s natural melatonin production, ultimately making it more difficult to sleep.

To keep your feelings under control while staying informed, set boundaries regarding news consumption. For example, consider only watching the news for updates in the early morning or dinner hour, and stick to broadcasts that focus on the headlines, not opinion or interpretation. Avoid consuming the news before bed, which can keep you awake. 

Learn New Coping Strategies

Many of the common strategies we use to deal with stress, such as getting together with friends or shopping, are off-limits at this time. Use this time to develop new strategies, such as trying a new hobby like painting or jigsaw puzzles, or tackle that stack of books you’ve been meaning to read. You might even find hobbies that you will continue after the emergency ends. 

Don’t Worry About Sleep

It sounds counterintuitive, but worrying about your sleep only makes it more difficult to sleep. When you’re anxious about sleep, it only creates more stress. If you’re having trouble sleeping, focus on maintaining your normal schedule and stress reduction, rather than forcing yourself to sleep. When you get into bed, don’t make sleep your goal, but rather relaxation. Again, limiting your news consumption before bed and making that time “me time” to relax with a warm bath or shower, some light stretching, and some light entertainment (like reading a book) can help you get into a good place to sleep. 

Above all, remember that this crisis is temporary. It may seem endless right now, but eventually the emergency will pass and life will return to some semblance of normal. Keeping perspective, and doing everything you can to stay healthy will help you weather the storm. 



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