With the latest happenings in Lebanon and worldwide, you are not the only one whose mental health is taking a hit. As the coronavirus spreads and more cases pop up, it is hard not to panic, even though keeping calm is essential. On top of the spread of the disease, the spread of misinformation and alarming posts on social media are rampant, and only heighten fears. We are all starting to freak out, as if the world was about to end… So how can you cope with the anxiety ?
KNOW THE FACTS
At this point, the best thing to do is to arm yourselves with the facts, from reliable sources of information. Most of the info circulating on social media are either fake or distorted, so beware. If you have children, and they have easy access to content on social media, address the subject with them, to temper their worries, and clarify some of the things they might have seen/read. That will relieve some of their anxiety. Check official sites such as CDC or WHO for actual facts and up-to-date information.
FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
One of the scariest thing about an epidemic that has no clear endpoint, like the coronavirus, is feeling that we can’t control our own lives or bodies anymore. The disease is random, and it is scary ! So, rather than focusing on the things you can’t control, try figuring out what you can control. Anytime you feel anxious, find your access to control; there are a few things you can do to take control and keep yourself sane. Avoid contact with people who are sick, do not touch your face, no matter how itchy that eye or nose can be!, wash your hands often for at least 20-30 seconds each time. It is important that you remain calm and practice vigilant hygiene within your family. That is one way to combat the spread. If you are feeling ill, stay home and call your doctor to communicate about your symptoms.
AND IF THAT IS NOT ENOUGH…
While practical steps that are in our control are essential, sometimes, our best efforts just aren’t enough. If you start experiencing symptoms of COVID19 like coughing, shortness of breath or fever, and think you might have been exposed, call your doctor, he will guide you through the steps of what to do. Keep in mind that according to the WHO, most illnesses caused by the coronavirus are mild. Do not panic.
PRACTICE RELAXATION TECHNIQUES
Despite having all the facts, sometimes, this is not enough to calm your anxiety, and that is totally valid. That is where relaxation comes in handy. A basic technique for relaxation is belly breathing or deep breathing. You can do it anywhere you are. Take a very deep breath in through your nose for 4 seconds, and then out through your mouth for 4 seconds. You should feel your lungs and chest cavity expand as you breathe in, and drop as you breathe out.
Other techniques involve progressive muscle relaxation and mindfulness. You can also try things like distracting yourself by singing out loud your favorite song, or focusing on things you can touch and feel, writing a journal, etc.
SPEAK UP ABOUT YOUR ANXIETY
It might feel awkward, but telling the people in your life that you are experiencing anxiety can be very powerful. It will not only help stop the people from talking constantly about the epidemic around you, but is will probably relieve those around you too that you addressed the subject, and help them as well get out from under that cloud of panic.
Indeed, you are not the only one anxious about the coronavirus outbreak, so voicing it can be a relief for you and others who might not dare to say it out loud.
AVOID THE CONSTANT CORONAVIRUS UPDATES ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Experts all agree on that: it is ok to opt out of the constant updates on social media and on the news. It might feel difficult at first to log off, especially if you want to feel informed. But it is proven that constant refreshing of the news goes beyond collecting facts, it pushes us into a panic-induced zone. Be aware of what is giving you anxiety: reading every story online is not staying informed, it’s only overwhelming your system. Get updates from trusted sites, regularly, but not all day long.
TALK TO A PROFESSIONAL
If you constantly feel worried or down, and have access to a therapist or other mental health professional, it can be helpful to talk about your anxiety. This is especially true for those who have a history of psychological issues, as such a context can be a trigger. A professional will help you find the right balance between following preventive advice and being obsessive. It is that balance that we all have to hold so that we can stay calm and engaged in our daily lives, even though the situation is serious.