Managing Anxiety and Fear during COVID-19

Managing Anxiety and Fear during COVID-19

If you missed our live stream with Dr. Stephanie Buehler Thursday April 2, we’re sharing her tips on managing anxiety and fear during this unprecedented public health crisis.

For patients living with a chronic illness like cancer, life is already occurring in a heightened state of anxiety. Add COVID-19 into the mix, and everything is that much tougher. Complicating the situation further is the fact that we have limited tools to fight this pandemic; the main tool being self-isolation, which is unnatural for us. We are social beings who want to connect with each other in the best of times. So, when things get really tough, it’s stressful when we can’t connect to comfort each other.

Isolated, But Not Alone

Dr. Buehler stressed that it’s totally normal to feel down, stressed, or even move in and out of states of grief during this time. A basic way to counteract the anxiety that goes along with such an unpredictable crisis, she noted, is to

have a support network you can turn to, be that video chats with friends and family, or staying in touch with your health care team. Never hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns or ask about telehealth appointments. Support via phone is available through the Komen Health Line at 1-877-GO-KOMEN, the OC Health Care Agency at 1-855-OC-LINKS. And many counselors and therapists are offering online sessions

Healthy Distractions

A self-described “reformed worrier,” Dr. Buehler has worked to manage her own anxiety. She practices many of the activities below to stay focused and calm, even when things get stressful:

  • Breathe – Take a moment to sit quietly and practice deep breathing. It’s a simple way to add oxygen to your brain, which will tell your body to calm down. Imagine a flower opening up when you inhale and closing when you exhale.
  • Meditate – Dr. Buehler meditates daily. Apps like Calm, Headspace and even short, guided meditations with music on YouTube are all effective ways to venture into the practice.
  • Journal – Write down a few things you are grateful for each day or voice your frustrations on paper. You’re sure to feel better!
  • Listen to Music – Choose something that matches your mood. Even if you’re feeling a bit down, pick something downtempo or melodic and build up to the high energy tunes.
  • Take a Walk – Although hikes are currently off limits, try to get out and walk in your neighborhood to clear your head.
  • Avoid the News – It’s ok to check it once a day, but constantly following the dialogue around the pandemic is just a way to elevate your stress and anxiety.
  • Read – Books and magazines are great escapes!
  • Art – Drawing, painting or doodling isn’t just for professional artists, and each can be both calming and entertaining. You can order colored pencils, paper and paints online, then watch doodling or painting videos on YouTube or try an adult coloring book.
  • Needle Arts – Crocheting, knitting, embroidering or other kinds of needle crafting are wonderful for improving focus and concentration.
  • Yoga – You don’t have to be a serious yogi to benefit from this ancient practice. Variations like restorative yoga and chair yoga can work wonders for your body and mind.

The key is, Dr. Buehler says, is to be gentle to yourself and others. Along with following health mandates, a generous dose of kindness and understanding will get all us through this.


Dr. Stephanie Buehler is affiliated with Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, works with BC survivors and BRCA pre-vivers – those with BCRA1 and BCRA2 gene mutations that increase the risk of breast cancer. Author of the book “What Every Mental Health Professional Needs to Know about Sex.” Dr. Buehler has spoken to survivors and professionals in the US and internationally about cancer and sexuality.