A certain amount of anxiety or worry is normal and helpful. If you often feel shaky, get butterflies in your stomach, find it hard to relax, or worry a lot, these can be part of anxiety. A good way to reduce anxiety is to practice relaxation or meditation! Smiling Mind or Calm apps are good.

Try this breathing exercise – take a long slow breath (imagine you are sniffing a flower or perfume), then slowly breathe out (imagine you are blowing out candles).

It’s normal to feel concern and be hesitant to get back to activities we have avoided for a while (in this case, justifiably due to COVID-19). But research has shown that pushing ourselves to do these activities will help the apprehension diminish. So, when the government says it’s safe for older adults, follow any precautions suggested (e.g. washing hands and keeping 1.5 meters apart), and try restarting some activities that help you stay healthy and that you enjoy. Use extra caution if you have chronic health problems or are over 70 years.

Anxiety can also make it hard to make decisions or enjoy things. It can disrupt your sleep, or make you avoid activities. If it’s got to this stage, then it’s time to consider getting some help. If you’re not sure if your level of anxiety is normal, complete the assessment at myCompass for Seniors, then use their self-help resources, or the new free online treatment program through Macquarie University’s Centre for Emotional Health (email: STOP@mq.edu.au or call 9850 8715). You can also talk to your GP or ring the COVID-19 Information and Support Line for Seniors: 1800 171 866.

As Walter Anderson said, “nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action.”


Dr Sue Ferguson is an Honorary Associate Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Macquarie University.