At this point, you know the symptoms of the coronavirus but all this talk of the coronavirus can impact your mental health, too. It is nearly impossible to read the news, have a conversation, or scroll through Facebook without hearing about the pandemic. The virus coverage is everywhere and it can feed your anxiety. The coronavirus can be a growing mental health threat across the nation and it's not secret that it has sparked fear and anxiety across the globe. The stress of an unknown virus can be a major trigger for many people. It seems that it has become more challenging to stay calm.
Does this mean you should run to the grocery store and stock up on groceries? Does this mean you should worry about your financial future? Does this mean you should contact your doctor? Does this mean you should wear a mask when you leave your house? Buying 50 gallons of hand sanitizer and 300 rolls of toilet paper may not be the answer to ease anxiety. Hand washing, good hygiene, social distancing and limiting air travel is the best way to get control of the virus.
How do you "wash your hands" of all the fear? Here the same some things to do to help ease the anxiety:
1.) Do what it is in your control and learn to accept what isn't. So many things have been cancelled including schools, Broadway shows, sporting events, trips etc. It's only normal to feel disappointed, fearful, angry and frustrated. But, instead of letting these feelings linger, think about what isn't cancelled and try to make lemonade out of lemons. This is an opportunity for us to spend more quality time with family, eat meals together, and have more unstructured down time. Spend more time outdoors and with nature. Take time to smell the roses, feel the sun on your face and appreciate all that you do have.
2.) Rely on your strengths. We have all been through hardships before...divorce, death of loved ones, financial loss, illness and many other tragedies. How did you get through them? You are resilient and will get through this too
3.) Boost your immune system. The virus affects those whose immune systems are compromised so time to exercise, eat healthy, and practice good sleep hygiene. Limit alcohol intake and drink water!
4.) Do not get absorbed in the media coverage. Stay aware but do not be glued to the TV or social media 24 hours a day.
5.) Self soothe and reconnect with yourself. Spend time reading a new book or meditating. Pick up an old hobby that you have't had time for or get a new one.
6.) Avoid people who are paranoid about the virus. Do not let other people's emotions influence yours. Stay informed from reliable sources and separate facts from feelings.
7.) Try not to make assumptions, catastrophize, and project the worst possible outcome. Stay in the present, practice mindfulness and take one day at a time.
8.) If you are working from home or in self-quarantine, arrange your space so it's calming and peaceful.
9.) Don't cut off contact with others. This can be detrimental to your mental health and can lead to loneliness and depression. We are all social creatures and crave human connection. We may be practicing social distancing and cannot socialize with each other the way we used to but that doesn't mean we can't talk on the phone or take advantage of technology! Set up a FaceTime date with your friend and have a martini or should I say"Quarantni"...lol! (just have one!) and an appetizer together!
10) Talk with a mental health professional if your fear and anxiety is interfering with your activities of daily living.
Given all the discussion of the virus, your children may have concerns too. If you are a parent, it is important to talk to your children. Involving your children in good health is essential. However, you need to minimize the negative effects it has on children. Children will look at you to see how afraid they should be. It is normal for children to ask questions, especially when something is new to them. Think about what your child absolutely needs to know. You can show your children that you can continue to do what is important to you while practicing healthy behavior.
Here are some things to do to help your children:
1.) Be as truthful as possible but avoid over-exposure to the coverage of the virus.
2.) Try to answer their questions without fueling the flame of anxiety.
3.) Children respond better to structure. If your children are home from school, create a "new normal" routine.
4.) Reassure your children that they are safe.
5). Have fun with them... play a game, sing, dance, take a walk, splash in the puddles with them and laugh!
Perhaps, when this pandemic is over we can reflect back on what we have learned from this. Crisis brings people together. 9/11 did that temporarily but more recently we have been living in a world divided full of judgement, criticism and hate. Perhaps this can help us re-evaluate our differences and help us be more accepting of each other.
Perhaps, when the virus is contained and we have experienced what it feels like not to hug a friend, not to shake a hand, not to have weekly dinners with your elderly mom, not to dine out or go to the movies, not attending a school function, or not having lunch with co-workers we will remember what is really important and all the simple things we have always taken for granted.
Once we can really be with each other again, once we can touch our own face again and once we have stopped greeting each other by elbow-bumping perhaps we will have learned to embrace the human connection instead of the internet connection. Perhaps we will have learned that social media is not a substitute for face to face contact. It certainly helps in a crisis or when someone lives far away but let's face it, so many of us have abused the system and hid behind a computer screen instead of socializing in person. Perhaps we will be more mindful, more present and open hearted...HUMAN!
Maybe Coronavirus can teach us all of this. Until then, lets act responsibly and try and look at all these radical changes as an opportunity to radically come together and practice radical acceptance, radical compassion and radical kindness.
If you are having difficulty coping with this turbulent time we are here to help.