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Coronavirus Anxiety: How to Help Yourself and Others

By Lily Owen

Image credit: New York Times

Events, socials, and holidays have been cancelled in response to the rise in cases of Coronavirus in the UK and it is a price we all have to pay to ensure the wellbeing of those more vulnerable than ourselves. But it is not only the virus that we are at risk of:

Coronavirus-anxiety is yet another condition arising in the midst of a new global crisis. Not only is our health affected, but the new government guidelines threaten our social and mental wellbeing too. It is so important that we look after ourselves and others over this cautionary period and without the sanctuary of pubs, cafes, gigs, and other places for mass gathering, we have to adapt.

A good sense of humour, open mind, and manageable expectations is a good place to start. Whether you are self-isolating, or social distancing, there are a number of activities and precautions you can take to stay safe and sane during this difficult time and ensure the same for others.

Helping yourself:

Get facts - coronavirus care has been made simple:

1. Wash your hands with alcohol-based rub or soap for 20 seconds (‘happy birthday’ twice or the chorus of Mr Brightside)

2. Maintain a distance of at least a metre from others who are coughing/sneezing.

3. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.

4. Cough into your bent elbow or a tissue and then dispose of it immediately.

5. If you experience symptoms of a persistent cough or fever, then you must self-isolate. Equally, if you know you had contact with someone who has these symptoms and is now self-isolating, then you must as well.

These are the basics and, of course, news and media coverage has the responsibility to report on all information and report on every new incident that comes through. For some people, this is too much to take in and causes panic. For your own peace of mind, you might want to block and ignore this influx of information. As long as you have friends and family to keep you up to date if any new emergency advice arises, this is perfectly acceptable and something you may find is necessary for your mental health.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. are not valuable sources of information on COVID-19! Please fact-check via reliable websites, such as the World Health Organisation (

Get watching

Live theatre, cinema screenings, and sporting events may be cancelled or postponed for now, but we have access to a whole load of recorded programmes online. Binge-watching culture finally has cause for positive distraction!

Here are a few suggestions:

- Line of Duty (Netflix), Peaky Blinders (Netflix/BBC iPlayer), Homeland (Netflix/All 4), Sex Education (Netflix), Top Boy (Netflix), Fleabag (BBC iPlayer), All or Nothing (Amazon Prime), The Great Hack (Netflix), Knock Down the House (Netflix), Andy Murray: Resurfacing (Amazon Prime), Queer Eye (Netflix), Lovesick (Netflix), Freaks and Geeks (All 4)

- Britbox has a 30-day free trial, so give that a go if you don’t have access to Netflix. You can find the likes of Absolutely Fabulous, Broadchurch, Happy Valley, Downton Abbey, Cold Feet, Only Fools & Horses, all the British soaps, and so much more.

· Netflix has introduced ‘Netflix Party’.

- With this option you can watch shows with your friends online, syncing video playback and adding a group chat so that you can continue to host long distance movie nights!

- It is only available on a chrome browser and can be installed from the Chrome Web Store. Once downloaded, you can choose any show and start playing the video on Netflix. Click the red ‘NP’ icon next to the address bar, then ‘Start Party’ to share a URL link with your friends.

Get reading

A good book can be just as gripping as a TV series and most people have some sort of collection on their shelves, even if it’s just for the aesthetic. Time to get them down and finally start one! If you don’t own any or have read them already, the libraries may be closed, but I am sure a housemate or friend wouldn’t mind lending one or dropping a few through your letterbox.

Time in isolation can be time for education outside of your own degree subject, be it on feminism, political history, philosophy, personal memoirs, or tackling climate change: fiction and non-fiction can offer a new way of thinking.

Here are a few suggestions:

- (Fiction) The Secret History by Donna Tart, Trumpet by Jackie Kay, One Day by David Nicholls, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Year of The Runaways by Sanjeev Sahota, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Normal People by Sally Rooney, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gaile Honeyman

- (Non-fiction) Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay, Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez, Becoming by Michelle Obama, We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Reasons to Stay Aliveby Matt Haig, I Like To Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution by Emily Nussbaum

Get listening

Music, podcasts, and audio books are another mental release to distract you from scrolling through your phone. It may have started out as a joke, but a number of Coronavirus-inspired playlists are popping up on Spotify. Titled with the likes of “melodic future bass songs that make me forget about coronavirus” and, the most popular, “COVID-19 Quarantine Party”, you are sure to get ‘Happy Birthday’ out of your head. If you’re too anxious for upbeat hits, then “Coronavirus beats to chill/hide in my room to” accommodates for others wanting a more soothing, lo-fi hip hop. Just lying back and listening to someone else’s voice instead of your own inner panic can help you to escape the outside world. Podcasts can talk about other issues; pointless, funny chat, or even mental health itself.

Here are a few suggestions:

- Reasons to be Cheerful with Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd, The Receipts, Private Parts with Jamie Laing and Francis Boulle, Ways to Change the World with Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Desert Island Disks, Happy Place with Fearne Cotton, Serial, Hip Hop Saved My Life with Romesh Ranganathan, Evil Genius with Russell Kane, How to Fail with Elizabeth Day, BBC Four's Beyond Today, Love Stories with Dolly Alderton.

Get creative

Art therapy is a very effective way to relieve stress and focus a different area of the mind. Whether or not you believe that you are an artistic person, putting tools to paper to write, draw, or paint can be a great way to distract yourself unleash some new potential. There is inspiration for still-life, with fruit and objects around your house, or maybe a housemate would strike a pose for you to interpret: if your household is in isolation together, get them involved!

· The LUU Art Society is providing free art supplies to those in self-isolation.

- Tackling the risk of increased mental health issues for those self-isolating, the committee has spent their remaining funds on art supplies to share, for free, during term time. Supplies include: paper, watercolour paints, and two brushes. So, if you are a student in Leeds and are interested, message the society on Facebook with your address and someone will leave them on your doorstep!

- Businesses and individuals are also encouraged to donate any supplies you are not in want or need of yourself.

Get talking

Despite perhaps being in total isolation, one advantage of social media is the ability to talk to people from a distance. Remaining physically distanced from your loved ones does not mean radio silence. Get on the phone, Skype, Facetime, Whatsapp, or whatever platform you prefer and stay in touch, whether you are in isolation, or your friend is: make sure you and they are okay.

· LUU Advice is always available for emotional support

- For those worried, stressed, or struggling with Coronavirus anxiety, LUU Advice is available to offer advice and a calming voice to talk to. It is easy for emotions to escalate with the constant media coverage and cases of ‘fake news’, so it is important to speak to people with credible information that can help.

- You can contact this service via email on phone on 01133801400

Get active

Exercise is known to release endorphins, lifting our mood, and for many who have suffered with depression, exercise is a great coping mechanism. Unfortunately, gyms are a breeding ground for germs and an easy way to spread or pick up the virus. Although places in Leeds have not closed, there are safer alternatives. The Government advice says that, when practising social distancing, you can go for walks outside, as long as you stay two-feet away from others. So, why not head out of town to a more remote walking route, or a large park where areas aren’t too congested?

If you're not planning on heading outside, make sure you keep windows open for fresh air and try out some indoor workouts. YouTube and Instagram have a number of routines available and many do not include the need for equipment. Try replacing weights with pints of milk, bags of flour, or even any heavy course books you can put to use. A number of influencers are also doing recorded and live home workouts.

Here are a few suggestions:

- Joe Wicks (YouTube), Yoga with Adrienne (YouTube), Barry’s Bootcamp (Instagram – live), Kayla Itsines (Instagram), Laura Biceps (Instagram – live), London Fitness Guy (Instagram – live every Tues/Thurs 5pm)

Helping others:

Helping others is so important during a crisis as big as this, but please make sure that you are in a safe position to do so! If you have symptoms yourself, or have had contact with someone who has, then please take responsibility and self-isolate.

· My Thai – free meals-on-wheels for the elderly

- The restaurant has been extremely quiet since the UK has been struck by the virus and so have teamed up with Neil’s Greengrocers in Kirkgate Market to cook and deliver a weekly supply of stew and soup to those older and more vulnerable in Leeds.

- If you know someone who could use this help please call 01132446818 between 11am and 4pm Monday-Friday!

- Simon Grybas, owner of My Thai, says “If people can come down and help, they can peel potatoes or donate some bags of fruit and vegetables, or whatever they can.”

· Alex Sobel MP – database for people to sign up for voluntary work

- This is an opportunity for anyone to put themselves in the available position to be called on to help around the Leeds North West community. This could be helping ensure the elderly have the necessary supplies as they are advised to stay indoors.

· Voluntary Action Leeds – calls for people willing to help

- If you can offer any support of any kind you can contact by email on / by phone on 01132977920

First and foremost, the best way to help others is by taking care of yourself and remaining cautious. Stay safe and busy.