Managing anxiety and stress during the coronavirus crisis

By June Shannon Coronavirus News   |   14th Apr 2020

Psychologists Jonathan Gallagher and Dr Isabela Caramlau provide reassurance and advice  on minding your mental health during the coronavirus.

These unprecedented times are difficult for everyone and can be particularly stressful for people living with a heart condition or those who have suffered a stroke.

In an effort to support you at this time we have teamed up with psychologists specialising in cardiology, Jonathan Gallagher and Dr Isabela Caramlau to provide specific reassurance and advice for people with heart disease, or who have had a stroke, on minding your mental health during the coronavirus.

Q1: Is it natural to feel anxious about the current COVID-19 crisis?

Yes it is very common to feel frightened and overwhelmed during these unprecedented times. Acknowledge your feelings, try to understand why you are feeling this way, and make sure someone you trust is available to speak with.

Q2: How do I know if I am experiencing abnormal levels of anxiety and may need to seek extra help?

In Ireland, many people live with anxiety, and it’s only natural that anybody’s anxiety levels would spike during a pandemic. A certain amount of anxiety can actually be helpful when it results in us taking appropriate safety precautions and self-care.

However, if increased anxiety persists and starts to significantly impact your day-to-day functioning, this is another matter. If you are experiencing sleep difficulties, loss of appetite, problems with concentration, unusual levels of irritability and overall feeling like your mind is racing all the time, you are probably struggling. As the first port of call you should contact your GP.

It is very common to feel frightened and overwhelmed during these unprecedented times.


Q3: I have been forced to cocoon because of my health and I am finding it difficult, can you please suggest some coping strategies I can use?

Acknowledge any difficult feelings, try to understand why you’re feeling this way and seek support from others.


Q4: I miss my grandchildren and I am worried about the impact all of this is having on their mental health – what can I do?

Take advantage of the phone and social media to stay in touch with your grandchildren. Listen to their concerns and answer their questions in an age- appropriate manner. You can still have fun too. Apps such as Caribu ( allow you to read books and play games with them.

Q5: I suffer from heart disease and I am worried that I will become unwell – what can I do to stop worrying about my health?

Why wouldn’t you be worried about your health? We are in the middle of a pandemic.

Take any form of regular exercise you can manage just now, whether inside or outside the home.


Q6: I had a heart attack a few years ago and I am afraid that I might suffer another during the lockdown period how can I manage that fear?

Acknowledge your fear but try to take steps to manage it so that it only minimally impacts your life.


Q: What practical steps can I take to keep mentally healthy?

Support available

The Irish Heart Foundation’s nurse support line is available five days a week. Anyone living with heart disease and stroke who has concerns or questions about the coronavirus can contact the nurse support line on 01 668 5001 or

The Irish Heart Foundation’s new heart support group is on Facebook. Anyone who lives with heart failure or another heart condition or has a family member living with a heart condition can join here:

The Irish Heart Foundation runs 21 stroke support groups and 5 heart failure groups around the country. All these groups have moved to telephone and online support. For more information, see



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coronavirus Covid-19 heart attack heart disease mental health psychology stroke

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