As billions around the globe struggle to cope with anxiety spikes and isolated living, experts are concerned that the coronavirus pandemic is likely to have a “profound and pervasive impact” on global mental health. Pandemics such as the one we are currently grappling with often ignite erratic behavior, anxiety, and fear in the hearts of those cooped up in uncertainty. When fear takes control, both the emotional part of our brain and our nervous system go into overdrive. This response can lead to feeling out of control emotionally, panic and impulsiveness.
If you have been feeling confused, angry, frustrated, or anxious lately, know that you’re not alone—we are all in this together. Here are a few expert-backed strategies to improve your mental and emotional well-being:
Don’t Fixate On News And Be Careful What You Read
Reading a lot of news pertaining to the virus and the destruction surrounding it can only lead to panic and depression. Constant monitoring of social media feeds and news updates about COVID-19 can intensify feelings of distress. When you feel anxious, your thoughts can spiral out of control faster than you can imagine and you start thinking about catastrophic outcomes. Avoid excessive exposure to media and remember that speculation and rumor only serve to fuel anxiety.
Having access to good quality information from credible sources about the virus can help you feel more in control. Try turning off automatic notifications and take a break from the news. Limiting your exposure to news will let you better focus on the things and actions that you do have control over, as opposed to incessantly wondering “what if”.
With tons of misinformation swirling around the internet- stay informed by sticking to trusted sources of information such as NHS and government websites.
Keep Things In Perspective
While the though of all those people battling for breath can lead us spiraling into the deepest pits of despair, also look at the brighter side of things and remember that not everyone who contracts COVID-19 becomes critically ill. A much larger percentage only experiences mild symptoms before they recover.
Research is underway to help those more vulnerable to the pandemic, such as young children, those with underlying health conditions and senior citizens. The only thing in your hands is to help yourself and your loved ones take all the precautions, such as maintaining social distancing and frequent washing of hands.
Stay Connected With Your Family And Friends
Keeping in touch with your family, friends and colleagues may ease the stress caused by COVID-19. Being outright about your feelings and concerns may help you find ways of dealing with challenges. They will be able to provide you with the support and care that you need to maintain a sense of comfort and stability. Maintaining social networks offers valuable outlets for relieving stress and sharing feelings. You don’t have to physically meet people to keep in touch. You can do so without increasing your risk of getting sick by chatting on various social media platforms, texting, video calling or talking on the phone.
In addition, you can take virtual tours of parks, museums, and galleries with your loved ones, play online games, or tune in to live-streamed concerts and have a blast with your friends. And a word of advice, while you are socializing on various networks, try not to sensationalize things for the sake of the mental health of others.
If you are sharing content, only share from trusted sources, since your friends might be worried too and anything you share can have an adverse effect on their mental health also.
Reaching out to others who may be feeling the brunt of isolation, the trepidation of financial stability, or the loss of a dear one, and assisting them in their hour of need, benefits both the person giving as well as the one receiving support. Many people are scared of the possibility of going into quarantine.
Keep in mind that as scary as the idea of going into isolation ism it is only a temporary phase and there are still a plethora of ways that you can connect with your loved ones digitally.
Look After Yourself
Self-care in the wake of the pandemic, is crucial to maintaining your sanity. This includes removing your focus from things you cannot control to things that you can, such as keeping yourself safe, maintaining social distance, and washing your hands. As much as possible, stick to your regular schedule and daily activities, indulge in activities that you enjoy, get enough sleep to make sure your mind is well-rested, and eat healthy, home-cooked meals.
If you don’t already have one, create a daily routine that prioritizes your well being and boosts your mental health. Include activities such as exercising, meditating, taking a walk, and spending time with your kids. All such activities will help you relax and positively impact your feelings and thoughts. Why don’t you look on the brighter side and use this new-found time to catch up on sleep, pursue hobbies that you never had the time for.
Especially, healthcare workers should prioritize their basic needs and take ample rest between shifts.
Try To Anticipate Distress
It is quite normal to feel overwhelmed, distressed and vulnerable when we read or listen about an outbreak, especially if you have a history of mental illness, have experienced trauma in the past, or if a chronic debilitating condition makes you vulnerable to the virus. Instead of hiding your feelings and acting stronger than you feel, try to acknowledge these feelings, and take care of your mental and physical health.
Also, try to steer clear of habits that may prove to be detrimental for you in the long term and exacerbate your condition, such as smoking and use of alcohol as coping mechanism. Try and reassure people you know who may be worried and check in with people who you know are living alone.
We don’t know how long the pandemic is going to stay, so it is important to have down time. Experts recommend continuing to access nature and sunlight wherever possible. Stay hydrated, workout, eat as healthy as you can and indulge in mindfulness practices. You can also try the “APPLE” technique whenever you feel the weight of worries and anxiety.
- Acknowledge: Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind, instead of ignoring it.
- Pause: Don’t react on an impulse or as others are reacting to the situation. Pause and breathe.
- Pull back: Whenever you are riddled with negative thoughts and pessimism, tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not necessary. Don’t believe everything you think, since most of what comes to mind is more a figment of our imagination and less fact.
- Let go: Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don’t have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.
- Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else – on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else – mindfully with your full attention.