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What is anxiety?

Anxiety arises in situations that we perceive as threatening and which we believe we cannot manage with our own means. The current situation requires us to adapt quickly to changing living conditions (What happens if I become infected? How can I protect myself? How long will it take? How do I organize my childcare? Will I lose my job?). This can create a feeling of insecurity and loss of control. It is important to know that there is no 100% control over life. So we live permanently with uncertainties, but we get now very clearly aware of this. However, we are not exploited to our anxiety, but can use a number of possible strategies to regulate our feelings in the long-term and to gain a more positive view of the current situation.

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Why is the current situation causing anxiety?

The Corona-virus pandemic, combined with the global, historically unique response of many countries, is unusual, new, and unknown. As a result, individual evaluations can initially be very emotional and outshine a reasonable assessment. At the same time, the entire life changes instantly, the flood of information and false messages overwhelm us. This requires an enormous process of adaptation to new circumstances and, for most people, is initially associated with negative and overwhelming feelings and anxiety, because familiar patterns have to be broken up and new coping strategies have to be developed. Additionally, many people are currently afraid of losing their jobs and have financial worries. Small and medium-sized companies, culture-related professionals, and freelancers in particular have to deal with the possibility of insolvency. That this leads to anxiety is understandable and normal. There are various ways to reduce these fears and thereby release energies for a solution-oriented handling of the current situation, which you will find below.

What options will help me to feel mentally stronger?

Information and education

Search for information on the current situation from trustworthy and scientifically sound sources such as the Robert Koch Institute, the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Federal Ministry of Health. Always check information you find and evaluate it according to the reliability of the source. Remember that misinformation leads to uncertainty. Therefore, look at information that you find on the Internet or that is sent to you with a healthy distrust and do not pass it on without thinking. Take regular breaks to give your body and mind the chance to switch off. Avoid messages about bad individual fates, as these will only intensify negative feelings. If anything, look for positive news such as the number of people who have already recovered or reports of mild progress. The rational use of numbers and statistics can also help to cope better with negative feelings. Design your handling of information consciously and in a regulated manner: do not search for new information more than twice a day.

Keep routines

Live a healthy life despite all restrictions. Get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, and exercise enough. Ensure a varied daily structure and find new routines when your usual ones are no longer possible. If you usually do sports regularly, for example, look for fixed times when you exercise at home or go jogging. Monotonous daily routines lead to boredom, frustration, and depressed mood. Do not spend whole days watching TV series, but talk on the phone with your friends, go for a walk or read a book. Many theaters currently offer online performances that can provide variety.

Sport/relaxation

Sport can help you to reduce current stress (e.g., jogging, walking, and cycling). Relaxation techniques can help you give your body and your mind a break. Try out different techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness exercises or autogenic training and find out which one is currently helping you. You can find material for this on the homepage of the "Techniker Krankenkasse", for example.

Avoid harmful behavior

Avoid short-term strategies, such as consuming alcohol or other substances to control your feelings. In the long run, such harmful strategies lead to a negative cycle that can lead to mental or physical illness.

Maintain social contacts

Communication with and trust in others are particularly important in times of crisis. Use networking opportunities such as e-mail, video telephony or chat programs and keep in touch. Especially in times of crisis, contacts with other people are a protective factor for your psychological well-being. If you work at home, you may be able to spend your coffee break with your colleagues over video calls. Perhaps the situation also opens up new opportunities, e.g., finally making phone calls with old friends again or getting into a deeper conversation with your children or spouse.

Acceptance and optimism

The current situation is complex and the development of the near future is not in your hands. It is normal to feel anxious, sad, insecure, or angry about the current situation. Developing an accepting attitude enables you to release energy for other areas and gradually release yourself from stressful thoughts. Remember that societies have managed to cope with crises in the past and have returned to "normalcy". Do not view the crisis as something insurmountable, but as a challenge in life. Perhaps it will also help you to think about a past crisis in your life and reflect on how you coped with it and what helped you then.

Change of perspective

Always try to take a fresh look at the current situation. It can help you to focus your attention on positive aspects. Ask yourself the question, how you can effectively use the changed living conditions for yourself for example. See the current time as an opportunity to gain more self-knowledge and gain valuable experience. You may also experience a feeling of gratitude as a result of the restrictions, how rich our life here in Germany is and how other people feel who have to live in cramped accommodation for months.

Take responsibility

Make yourself aware that you have an impact on persons around you. Take care of your friends, family, and acquaintances. Offer support and help each other. Be considerate of others. Think of the lonely, the sick, the elderly, and socially disadvantaged people and follow the recommendations of official bodies for yourself and for these people. If you help others, you will get something back.

How do I deal with existential concerns?

There is no simple answer on how to handle existential concerns, since every situation is different. Use the above-mentioned strategies for better mental well-being in order to be able to use your energy specifically to deal with existential concerns. Try to find out exactly what the content of your worries is. Worries are often not thought through to the end. Therefore, talk to a friend about the worst case scenario and put together a precise strategy for what to do if this happens. Contact the numbers set up for people with acute stress if their psychological stresses become excessive.

How does it come to exessive stock purchases?

Just as downplaying the dangers is a coping strategy, excessive inventory purchases are a strategy to regulate negative feelings. The goal of these actions is to reduce anxiety and insecurity and regain control of a threatening situation. Such coping strategies only lead to, if any, short-term control or a short reduction of negative feelings. In addition to this ineffective regulation of feelings, excessive stock purchases are unsolidarious and increase the feeling of insecurity and threat in society and should therefore be avoided under all circumstances. Use other strategies to deal with uncertainty and anxiety.