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Worried about COVID-19? Psychologist offers tips to calm anxiety

The number of confirmed cases in the U-S is now above 1,000. That growing number is making a lot of people nervous.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — The coronavirus has led to cancellations of events and schools changing  routine or tightening restrictions. 

The number of confirmed cases in the U-S is now above 1,000. That growing number is making a lot of people nervous.

So what can you do to deal with that anxiety?

Dr. Cheryl Bemel with Allina Health says worry is the thief of joy and a set up for bigger health problems.

"Worry can turn on a stress response. I have often said worry is like a rocking chair. We do it all day long but we don't get anywhere. It is our nature to jump to conclusions and there is a lot of frenzy out there now," Bemel said. "We know that the worry can be detrimental to not only our mental health but our physical health as well."

Bemel says some of the anxiety is linked to amplified information on social media, some of it false. To calm your fears, she recommends reading information from the CDC and other reliable sources. But limit your intake on news consumption. She says an abundance of stress can lead to weakening the immune system.

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"We don't want to expose ourselves to chronic stress. That can bring on a host of things we don't want to get into," she said. "One of the best things we recommend is to get your physical exercise. And take a break two, three times a day and do a calming experience. It is what I call mini breaks and do deep breathing for three minutes. You will calm the mind and body."

There are other ways to de-escalate. Some psychologist recommend keeping a thought record by writing down your feelings. Then, fact check with reliable sources. Bemel says if things become overwhelming, or if you feel you have symptoms contact your physician. 

And for the parents fielding questions from the kids, she says honesty can help calm fears.

"(Kids) can take this in and run with it and get pretty darn worked up. Remind them that there are a lot of people around them, health providers, CDC and people who are working on this 24/7 to help keep them safe," Bemel said.
"Be honest and let them know yes some people are very ill. Some people have died."

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KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit /coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about the Midwest specifically, learn more about the symptoms, and keep tabs on the cases around the world here. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215.

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