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How to manage anxiety and panic attacks during the COVID-19 outbreak

Dr Oluwagbenga Odeyemi, consultant psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Woodbourne, provides tips and advice on how to manage anxieties and panic attacks, particularly during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in day-to-day life changing for the majority of people. For some people, the reality of the world right now is likely to be exacerbating feelings of isolation and uncertainty, both of which are toxic ingredients for someone with a mental illness, particularly for those with an anxiety disorder. During the COVID-19 outbreak, many have experienced COVID-19 panic attacks and heightened anxiety. And as we approach a period where the lock-down is starting to be relaxed, there’s a real possibility that these anxieties will intensify or even escalate to a point of experiencing a panic attack. COVID-19 anxiety has been common amongst many, whether it's a result of easing lockdown or being kept indoors, but it's not something anyone has to go through alone. 

Ways to manage any anxiety caused by COVID-19

There are things you can do to help manage your anxiety or anxiety attacks during this time, including the following:

  • Doing breathing exercises everyday will help to manage anxieties and prevent a COVID-19 panic attack
  • Participating in regular exercise will help to manage your stress levels, release tension, improve your mood and boost your confidence
  • Eat regular meals to stabilise your blood sugar levels, and avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking
  • Make sure that that you are sleeping well and resting regularly
  • If you are interested in reading and watching TV, it is a good idea to do these things to help you stay relaxed
  • Meditation is also known to be very effective in managing anxieties. There are a lot of free meditation apps available on your phone and on the internet
  • It’s also important to keep connected with your family and friends. You can do this by calling them and video conferencing them regularly
  • Most importantly, avoid information overload. So, limit the amount of news you watch, and try to avoid going on your phone first thing in the morning to get the latest news

What to do during a panic attack

However, if you do suffer a panic attack, there are things to keep in mind. For example:

  • It important that you don’t allow your fear of the panic attack to control you. Always remember that a panic attack will pass and the symptoms are not a sign of anything harmful about to happen
  • Tell yourself that the symptoms you’re experiencing are caused by anxiety. Ride out the attack, and try to remain in the situation until it subsides. If you confront your fears and don’t run away from them, you’re giving yourself the chance to discover that nothing bad is going to happen
  • We know that breathing exercises are very important for panic attacks. A person who is suffering from a panic attack often breathes very quickly, which causes the panic attack to worsen. Doing a breathing exercise can ease the symptoms. A simple thing to do is to breathe in as slowly, deeply, and gently as you can through your nose, and then breathe out slowly, deeply and gently through your mouth. While you’re doing this, close your eyes and focus on your breathing
  • If you have someone around you, it is also helpful for them to reassure you that this will pass and that the symptoms are nothing to worry about
  • Once your anxiety does begin to pass, start to focus on your surroundings and continue doing what you were doing before it happened

Seeking support for anxiety and panic attacks during the COVID-19 outbreak

If you’re struggling with anxiety and panic attacks, please make sure you seek adequate help.

At Priory Group, we are able to provide online support to both new and current patients as a result of the coronavirus restrictions and social distancing measures that are in place.

We are also able to offer access to inpatient services where this is required.

For more information on our online therapy services, please visit our Priory Connect page. And for the latest information on how we are responding to the coronavirus, and keeping our patients and staff safe, please visit our COVID-19 preparedness page.


Blog reviewed by Dr Oluwagbenga Odeyemi (MBBS, MPH, MRCPsych, PGDip. in Clinical Psychiatry), Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Woodbourne

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