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RIZVI: There are ways to combat coronavirus anxiety

As an extrovert that overthinks, I heavily rely on my busy schedule packed with classes, meetings, article deadlines and lunch dates to keep my mind off of the existential thoughts that would otherwise spiral me into chest-tightening anxiety. 

With my mind constantly occupied, I could not worry about worrying. 

But now, with online classes and a statewide stay-at-home order in place, there is too much time to consume the overwhelming disheartening news and to worry. 

With a highly at-risk father and a mother that routinely risks her health to work at the local TD Bank, I cannot help but mentally fabricate the “worst-case scenarios” and feel that existential dread.

But after having a thoroughly emotional, mental breakdown on the bathroom floor, I decided that it was about time I confronted my escapist tendencies and learned how to cope with the mentally harrowing difficulties that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has brought to the surface head-on. 

I have nowhere near mastered the art of being zen nor have conquered my anxieties. But anything, no matter how small, helps in difficult times like these. 

Here are five ways I have managed my anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

1. Take a break from the news

As a journalism student, if we are taught anything, it is that tragedy sells, and with this pandemic, media companies have a goldmine of horrifying news at their disposal. 

What these companies and outlets fail to realize, though, is that their capitalist agendas have real costs on the mental well-being of the millions that consume their content. 

This is not to say that these companies are evil or intend on inducing panic. But, as consumers, we must accept the cynical truth that news outlets do not have our best interests in mind and, out of their own self-interest, are capitalizing on this disease for views and clicks. 

In short: The news will not get better. Outlets will continue to pump out the worst news possible and promote the panic. 

This is also not to say ignorance is bliss. Being an informed citizen allows us to make better decisions and stay healthy. It is important to watch the news. But there is a limit that must be set. No one, especially those who are anxiety-prone, can deal with such heaviness all the time. 

If you find yourself obsessively searching for the latest updates, feeling panicked by the rising stats or start feeling negative, give yourself a break. You are allowed to feel overwhelmed and take time to recharge — it is human. 

2. Do positive research

In times of madness, we want clarity. For people like me whose anxiety stems from not having control, being informed is ironically one of the ways we try to keep it. 

So if you find that it is difficult to take a news detox out of a fear of missing out, then try to balance out the content that you read. 

For example, after hearing about the rising death toll on CNN, be sure to look up which countries have lowered their rates, how many lives have been saved and all the advancements scientists have made behind the scenes. 

After all, in times of uncertainty, optimism is all we have. 

3. Stay productive, not busy

Throughout this quarantine, I have learned that being busy and being productive are two very different things. 

Being “busy” just means being occupied. Netflix binge-watching, insta-stalking and scrolling mindlessly through TikTok fall under this category. And while all those things are great, it is easy to start feeling purposeless and start worrying about not doing “enough.” 

To avoid this end, try to maximize the free time you have. Make a timetable or a mental checklist for yourself of things to get done. Be sure to do your assignments and log in to lectures if you have them. Even if you doze off, at least you will feel some semblance of connectivity to school. 

Be sure you have a couple things that you consistently do, so even on bad days when you can not be productive, you at least know you did something. For me, this includes getting dressed, making my bed and spending some time with family. 

4. Stay social

Just because we are physically distant from one another does not mean we have to mentally or emotionally distance as well. 

Take this time to reconnect with old friends and check up on them. Answer those text messages you have been ignoring. 

Everyone around the world is going through this pandemic. Talk about your fears and console one another. 

Post questions and polls on your story and try to talk to someone new. 

You never know who might come out of the woodwork and become a great, new friend, and you will feel a lot less alone.

5. Give yourself credit

It is easy to let our anxieties make us feel prisoner to them. If you find yourself sobbing on a bathroom floor, it is okay. 

Make it a point to remind yourself how strong you are for even doing the little things and persevering day by day. It takes great resilience to carry on when everything feels like it is falling apart.

You, like everyone else, are doing your best, and that is worth remembering. 

Rania Rizvi is a Rutgers Business School and School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in supply chain management and journalism and media studies. Her column, "Reali-Tea with Rania," runs on alternate Wednesdays.

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