What Do the Experts Say about Mental Health and Coronavirus?
Taking care of your mental health during this coronavirus epidemic can be tough, but it's not impossible.
Being anxious and feeling stressed under the current scenario of the world is completely and absolutely normal! Especially for kids and teenagers, with schools closing and classes shifting online, it’s like they’ve suddenly been pushed into an environment that they are not used to.
The same goes for adults working at home. With their routines being completely flipped upside down, there isn’t a single element of surprise about the fact that all of us have been coerced into this constant state of anxiety and this feeling of being overwhelmed all the time.
But for everyone who is facing this situation, understand this – You are not alone!
We have compiled a list of what all you can do in order to keep your mental health in check during these trying times.
1) Understand that your anxiety is completely normal
If the news of everything around you closing down, like schools, offices, etc, is giving you mounts and mounts of anxiety, then you’re certainly not the only one. Anxiety is a completely normal phenomenon that makes us hyperaware of any triggers or threats in our surrounding environment so that we can protect ourselves both mentally and physically.
Dr Lisa Damour of The New York Times says that “Your anxiety is going to help you make the decisions that you need to be making right now — not spending time with other people or in large groups, washing your hands and not touching your face.” She states that our general feeling of worry and hyperawareness is also helping us think about the other members of society if not just our own selves.
In a way, our anxiety is that knight in the shining armour that we never expected it to be!
She also urges us to not rely on just any source of news, since being exposed to fake news can trigger panic attacks.
If under any circumstances you fear that you might be having symptoms of COVID-19, then it is important that you seek help from a trusted professional and practice social distancing before letting your anxiety take over!
2) Make sure your perspectives are open
"Take a deep breath and remind yourself that most people who contract COVID-19 will only experience mild symptoms," says APA.
A lot of hard work is underway by doctors, scientists, and our governments to make sure that help reaches people who are more vulnerable to contract this virus such as senior citizens and other immunocompromised individuals of all ages.
We can just continue to do our part in order to contribute like washing our hands, staying at home, not touching our face, etc.
3) Routines are important
"With the closures of businesses and schools, creating a go-forward plan for you and your family will help keep your mind at ease. This could mean creating an at-home routine and schedule for remote work amid social distancing," says Dr Mimi Winsberg, on Forbes.
She lays emphasis on the importance of mimicking our life back to what it was before COVID-19 hit us in order to maintain our sanity. We should follow the same schedule we had and that includes our sleep cycle, our working hours, keeping a separate place in the house for working/studying, keeping your environment clean, and eating healthy.
"Focus on things that are actually in your control and create action plans to address them," she adds.
4) Stay connected; Talk to people
Maintaining our social networks like before can provide for us a sense of normalcy and distract us from the situation we are in. Sharing your thoughts and talking your feelings out can also aid in relieving stress!
Even if you feel like you have no one to talk to, or if you’re surrounded by people who aren’t going through this in the way you are, then you can always resort to online community forums such as ours!
But why is it so important to not keep things bottled in?
“Right now what we are going through as individuals and as a whole is a very challenging time. For some of us who are lucky enough to be with family as we go through these testing, times is a great privilege. However, there are lots of us who are away from family, struggle to make ends meet, or just lonely. There are others who are married but unhappy or don’t get along with family and are therefore struggling with being at home.
People with existing mental health conditions unable to go to therapists or don’t have the option of online therapy are also struggling. As a psychologist, I have seen an increase in the number of people who are stressed, anxious and lonely. I do one on one sessions with them, however, I feel the need for community at this time is very important. It is important to connect with others emotionally and mentally as we isolate them physically. Platforms that provide that like Now&Me and exactly what we need right now to get through this time. Because this affects all of us and we can get through this together”, says Dr Meghna Prabhu, who is a renowned psychotherapist.
In addition, you can take virtual tours together of museums, national parks and other sites via Google Arts & Culture, tune in to live-streamed concerts and other events or play online games with friends, suggests NAMI. (via Forbes)
5) Know when you need to take a step back
We need to try and take a step back and walk away from that urge of wanting to know whats going on in the news or around us at every second of the day. Make yourself feel comfortable and get accustomed to that feeling of uncertainty and obliviousness because of constant exposure to bad news can be extremely taxing.
You can try doing this by leaving your phone to charge in another room for a certain period in the day, or switching off the notifications of your news apps so that you can check them manually and you’re not exposed to anything that can trigger your anxiety against your will.
Practice other engaging and distracting activities while you’re taking a break from everything. It can be anything, from a quick yoga session to just doodling on the back of your notebook.
6) Don’t forget your basic needs
You shouldn’t be so wrapped up in worrying about the coronavirus that you forget to fulfil the basic needs that your body requires. This will do nothing but cause more and more anxiety, which will eventually, turn into a vicious cycle that’ll be very hard for you to break.
"In times of stress, we tend to minimize the importance of our foundation when we really should be paying more attention to it," says Lynn Bufka, Associate Executive Director for Research and Policy at the American Psychological Association. (via CNN) Make sure you are:
Getting adequate sleep
Keeping up with proper nutrition
Getting outside as much a possible
Engaging in regular physical activity
Practicing mindfulness, yoga, and other various forms of self-care can help shift your focus on where you want it to be, and make you feel more control over aspects of your life that you recently feel you’ve lost control of.
If you feel like you still need that extra push of help and you need to reach out to someone, here is our listings of mental health professionals!