Tips for Combating Anxiety Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

Charlene Marshall avatar

by Charlene Marshall |

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Like my readers on Pulmonary Fibrosis News, I’m doing my best to stay abreast of the global COVID-19 outbreak. With that said, I am finding it pertinent for my mental health to take breaks from social media and news reports which are inundating us with information surrounding this pandemic.

We’re privileged to live in an almost real-time world, where as soon as information is released, we are privy to it as long as we have a Facebook or Twitter account. And while this access to instant information can be a gift, it can also be a great source of anxiety.

I consider myself lucky not to experience anxiety regularly. However, since my diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), my anxiety has worsened. This is further exacerbated by news of the novel coronavirus spreading rapidly around the globe and relying on others to help flatten the curve. I want to believe in the commitment of our friends, family, neighbors, and community to do their part in helping to reduce the spread of this virus through social distancing. However, that has not happened so far, which is worrying for me and others in the pulmonary fibrosis community who are most at-risk for complications from this virus.

As I write this column, I am back in the hospital. Despite knowing that I am receiving excellent pulmonary care, I feel the tension among our amazing healthcare professionals. They are nervous and rightfully so. The impact on our healthcare system if the spread of this disease does not subside could be significant. It is important to be diligent and practice the recommendations laid out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization to stop the spread of COVID-19.

As well as following those recommendations, it is equally important to take care of our mental health — particularly for those who are in the high-risk category and are spending weeks in self-isolation.

Numerous COVID-19 memes have been shared on social media over the past few weeks. Some encourage laughter and others share information. One of my favorites is a list of things that are not closed or canceled — these include calling friends, going for walks, spending time with pets, and enjoying a quiet morning with coffee.

I’ve thought of some things I can do to help ease my worries about COVID-19. The following activities may alleviate our anxieties during these challenging times:

  • Limit social media: I am part of the generation that is always “plugged in.” Social media can feel like my lifeline when it comes to obtaining information or connecting with friends. But spending time away from it allows me to focus on other important things, even while in the hospital. If you are on social media, I encourage you to obtain COVID-19-related information from credible sources to help manage your anxiety.
  • Engage in a creative hobby: I can’t wait to return home to my craft room to work on cards and other creative projects. Engaging in creative tasks stimulates different parts of my brain and helps me focus on the task at hand, instead of letting my mind wander. Getting creative usually means being disconnected as well, and it is good for all of us to spend time offline and focus on hobbies that bring us joy.
  • Spend time outdoors or go for a drive: Many of us who are living with IPF are limited physically due to the breathlessness caused by this cruel disease. Going for a walk may not be feasible but taking a drive can be good for the soul. One of my favorite pastimes is taking a drive with friends and enjoying a nice coffee. When I can go out again, I may not invite a friend along, but I’ll be happy to make my own coffee, load my dog in the car, and enjoy a scenic drive.
  • Call a friend: Despite my claims that I am always plugged in, sometimes I forget that cellphones have a call function and are not just for texting. During this potentially prolonged period of social isolation, pick up the phone and call a friend. Better yet, FaceTime them and say hello via video. Many of us who are highly susceptible to this virus feel very lonely and isolated, and you might be surprised by how much a quick phone call with a friend can help.

How are you combating your anxiety amid COVID-19? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!


Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


Jeannine Franco avatar

Jeannine Franco

Sending love & prayers Charlene. I hope whatever put you in the hospital is resolved soon. Thank you for all you do for our community.

Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Thank you so much Jeannine, I really appreciate the time you took to reach out and your prayers. I am feeling the love from this wonderful forums community, and hope to be on the mend soon. Thank you again! Love, Char.

Maureen Terhune avatar

Maureen Terhune

I am so very sorry to hear that you are back in hospital, Charlene, and it's so good of you to go on posting while you are there. Those of us with PF are naturally more anxious now that we have the challenge of avoiding COVID-19 as well. Thank you for your encouraging words. We went for a pleasant drive to the coast yesterday. Just looking at the water is calming.

I hope you will soon be better!


Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Hi Maureen,

Thank you so much for reading my columns and reaching out via the comments. I love hearing from members of our community, and really appreciate your kind words. I completely agree re: the anxieties surrounding COVID-19 and hope that we can lean on each other for support during this time. I am so glad you took a drive to the coast and spent some time around the water. Being at the ocean is my favourite place in the world, and I feel so at peace and calm there. I was recently in California and am working on a video diary all about my trip and commitment to getting to the Pacific Ocean. I hope to share it soon! Keep doing things that bring you joy and calm. Many thanks for getting in touch!
With love, Charlene.

Suzanne avatar


I am so sorry to hear that you are back in the hospital. I am sending you hugs and positive vibes to get through this. ❤️

At this time, I am self quarantined with my husband. We are cooking, binge watching sitcoms we wanted to catch up on and calling or FaceTiming family and friends while we wait it out. It’s anyone’s guess how long that will be but we are trying to stay positive while we wait.

Take care Charlene and I hope you are better and home soon.

Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Hi Suzanne,

So nice to hear from you, thanks so much for reaching my columns and reaching out via the comments. How are you doing? I am feeling the love, hugs and positivity from many in our PF community and I am so grateful for you all!

I'm so glad you've found things to keep you both busy during this quarantine. I know it is tough, but we know it is so important. Facetiming with friends is such a blessing, isn't it? Do continue to stay positive and know that I am thinking of all of our PF family during this tough time. Thank you for your well wishes, I really appreciate them. With warm thoughts, Charlene.

Lesley Rowland avatar

Lesley Rowland

Always good to read this column..we have nothing similar in New Zealand. Just had 6 monthly review at Respiratory Dept.latest scan shows no change, and hardly any changes in breathing tests, which is good to hear. However I do feel burning type discomfort in lungs, especially when breathing hard in doing exercise. I am 71, still try to bike or walk each meds and until this week working 4 afternoons a week as a receptionist. This is a rotten disease - whatever the age. Was told if anything changes it will mean a steroid. What does anyone take for the discomfort?

Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Hi Lesley,

Thank you so much for reading my column and reaching out via the comments. Ahh, your beautiful country is high on my bucket list some day, I hope I can make it to NZ! I'm glad to hear that your latest scan didn't reveal any change physiologically or in your breathing tests. That is great news and I will keep my fingers crossed this continues for a long time! That said, sorry to hear of your burning discomfort. Did you bring this up to your physician when you were there? It might mean you need an inhaler (steroid or ventolin) just to alleviate that pain after breathing heavy. I am on both regularly, though I can't decipher with confidence that they are effective...worth a conversation though. Hang in there and feel free to write any time -- it sure is a rotten disease, I agree! Warmest regards,

Holly W Patient avatar

Holly W Patient

Thinking of you, Charlene! I send my very best wishes for improvement, and eventually, new lungs just for you. You are our inspiration.
You don't have to respond, it's ok.

Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Thank you so much Holly -- as always, it is wonderful to hear from you! I hope you're staying safe and isolated throughout these scary times. Did Christie tell you I was in CA last month? We connected and were hoping I was closer to you so that we could connect, but I was in SoCal. Hopefully another time - I'd love to celebrate with you when we're both free of this dreaded disease. Keep in touch and thank you so much for your kind words. They lifted my spirits this evening, per usual. Hugs to you both!


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