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The Friday Five

5 Ways to Reduce Anxiety in a Worldwide Pan(dem)ic

We’re all a bit scared; that’s reasonable. Here are tips for keeping the panic out of this pan-dem-ic.

By Jamie Spannhake

These are certainly interesting, even scary times as we face the coronavirus pandemic. As if anxiety levels aren’t high enough with the “run of the mill” stressors of practicing law. Add COVID-19, market dives and new remote working conditions to the mix, and we have the perfect conditions for a panic!

We may not be able to control the external forces of the pandemic or market crisis. But we can stop ourselves from panicking. Here are five ways.

(Related: “Working From Home? Five Ways to Guard Your Health and Your Sanity” by Jamie Spannhake at Health Food Radar)

1. Get the Facts Straight

First, let’s start with what it means to describe the current outbreak of COVID-19 as a “pandemic.” The term “pandemic” refers to a disease that has spread in multiple countries and continents simultaneously. Specifically, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define pandemic as the spread of a new disease “worldwide” or “over several countries or continents,” respectively. While it is true that we need to take a pandemic seriously, it doesn’t mean that we need to panic. A “pandemic” does not refer to how deadly a virus is; rather it refers to how widespread its outbreak is — in other words, to its geographic spread.

2. Be Careful About Your Sources of Information

There are two primary sources of reliable information during this pandemic: the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many other sources of information deal in speculation and repeatedly explore the worst “what-if” possibilities. If those sources spike your anxiety levels, avoid them. You can get the information you need to protect yourself and others by reading the materials and watching the videos on the WHO and CDC websites.Be careful about the information arriving in your email inbox as well. Now is not the time to forget basic security measures — like double-checking the sender’s email addresses before clicking on that “urgent” notification link from your bank or even your boss. Hackers are working overtime, so beware!

3. Fear Is Contagious

During a pandemic, fear can be as contagious as the disease itself. Fear causes us to do irrational things, like hoard hand sanitizer, face masks, Lysol wipes and protein powder. If you find certain people are freaking out in fear, maybe it would be best to avoid them, or at least avoid discussing the pandemic with them. We’re all a bit scared; that’s reasonable. But we can’t let fear lead us to irrational behaviors that hurt ourselves and others.

4. Take a Break from Social Media, Especially Right Before Bed

This is good advice whether there’s a pandemic or not. There’s nothing like social media to spike our levels of anxiety and depression. As we all know, there is much misinformation posted on social media, and we can get sucked into it. Reading through social media posts right before bed disrupts our sleep, at the very time that we need to keep our immune systems strong by doing things like getting enough good sleep.

5. Take Reasonable Precautions Based on Scientific Evidence

We don’t need to panic. We don’t need to freak out. We don’t need to live in fear. So, what do we need? We need to take reasonable precautions based on knowledgeable sources, like, again, the CDC and WHO. And, since state and local responses are evolving, we need to check local government sources for updates.

But none of this involves panicking. Most importantly, stay up to date on precautions, travel notices, and factual information at www.who.int and www.cdc.gov.

Stay calm, stay well. And keep the pan-ic out of this pan-dem-ic.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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So much good information is flooding the internet in response to COVID-19, it’s hard to keep up. Here, our inbox is full of posts and pitches from those who truly want to help. With that in mind, here are articles and resources you may find useful. — The Editors

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Jamie Spannhake

Jamie Spannhake is a lawyer, mediator and certified health coach, and author of “The Lawyer, the Lion, & the Laundry.” She is a partner at Berlandi Nussbaum & Reitzas LLP, serving clients in New York and Connecticut, practicing in the areas of commercial litigation, estate planning, residential and commercial real estate, and business transactions. She writes and speaks on issues of interest to lawyers, including time and stress management, health and wellness, work-life balance, and effective legal writing. Follow her on Twitter @IdealYear.

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