As news about coronavirus (COVID-19) dominate the headlines, it can be seen taking a toll on our mental health, creating panic and anxiety for a lot of us, particularly those already living with conditions like anxiety and OCD.
Human beings like certainty. We are hard-wired to want to know what is happening when and to notice things that feel threatening to us. Stress is a natural reaction to any threat. This very reaction, while there to protect us, can cause all sorts of havoc when there is a sense of uncertainty and conflicting information around us.
It is important to remember that taking care of your mental health is as important as looking after your physical health. Good mental health and positive wellbeing can help you better cope with the COVID-19 threat and the uncertainty it’s creating. So how can we protect our mental health?
Separate what is in your control from what is not
A large part of anxiety comes from a sense of what we think we should be able to control, but can’t. It’s important to note that we are not completely helpless in light of current events. There are things you can do, and it’s helpful to focus on those. Wash your hands. Remind others to wash theirs. Plus you can always choose your response to any given situation. Hence you can choose to remain calm.
Limit your consumption of news
Minimize watching, reading or listening to news that causes you to feel anxious or distressed; seek information only from trusted sources and mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones. (Do you really need to know what is happening on a cruise ship you aren’t on?).
Seek information updates at specific times during the day, once or twice. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried. Get the facts; not the rumours and misinformation. Facts can help to minimize fears.
Our recommendation: You can check out WHO website for accurate information and practical guidelines for you and your family to follow.
Try and focus on news that give hope and positive stories. WHO recommends to find opportunities to amplify the voices, positive stories and positive images of local people who have experienced the novel coronavirus and have recovered or who have supported a loved one through recovery and are willing to share their experience. It may help you to know that there have been 79883 cases of recovery as of now (17th March; 10AM). Source: Worldometers.
It is a good idea to ensure your day is filled with activities. There are a number of things you can do even if succumbed to home - working from home (reaching out to clients/ colleagues via calls, having video conferencing, planning, to-do lists, catching up on work set aside), organising data on laptops & phones, cooking, cleaning, baking, catching up with friends and family virtually, reflecting, journaling, playing board games, getting in touch with the creative self - art, music, dance. Ensuring that you're eating, exercising and sleeping well. Believe it or not, ensuring these basics can go a long way in keeping a check on the stress. Besides, all of these can also help boost your immune system.
Challenge yourself to stay in the present
Perhaps your worry is compounding—you are not only thinking about what is currently happening, but also projecting into the future. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened, gently bring yourself back to the present moment. Notice the sights, sounds, tastes and other sensory experiences in your immediate moment and name them. Engaging in mindfulness activities is one way to help stay grounded when things feel beyond your control.
At times of stress, we work better in company and with support. Try and keep in touch with your friends and family. Take advantage of technology; we may not be able to meet them physically but we can always catch up virtually. Make calls, video calls to stay connected.
Reach out if you need more support.
You don’t have to be alone with your worry and it can be comforting to share what you are experiencing with those trained to help. Reach out to us on 91-9830072006. Our therapists are available to take online sessions. Remember that we are in this together, and help is always available.
For crisis management, you can also reach out to iCall 022-25521111- a trusted and toll-free Psychosocial Helpline.