Worries and anxiety about the coronavirus and its impact can be mind-boggling. Social distancing makes it harder.
How then do you cope during this pandemic?
The novel coronavirus has undoubtedly changed your life as you know it. The new normal is characterised by working from home and being conscious of your surroundings every time you have to step out.
The risk of contracting the disease may be bothering you and you can’t wait for the pandemic to pass. Information overload, hearsay and misinformation can make your life feel out of control.
You may already be experiencing stress and anxiety as a result of the COVID-19 happenings.
It is essential to acquaint yourself with self-care strategies and get the care you need to sail through.
Your mind and body should be a priority. In taking good care of both and connecting with others, you will greatly benefit.
Take care of your body
Be mindful about your physical health:
Get enough sleep.
Create a sleeping routine and stick to it even if you are staying at home. Retire to bed and wake up the same time every day.
Regular physical exercise can help reduce anxiety and trigger happy hormones. Find an exercise activity that you will enjoy, such as dance. When you can, take a walk in areas that social distancing is possible.
Always go for a well-balanced diet. Limit caffeine as it can aggravate stress and anxiety and avoid junk food.
Avoid tobacco, alcohol and drugs.
If you smoke tobacco you are at higher risk of lung disease. Having that COVID-19 affects the lungs, your risk increases even more. Using alcohol to try to cope can make matters worse and reduce your coping skills. Unless you are on prescription medicine, avoid drugs as a coping mechanism.
Limit screen time.
Turn off electronic devices for some time every day, including 30 minutes before bedtime. Make a conscious decision to spend less time in front of a screen — television, tablet, computer and phone.
Relax and recharge.
Have some quality “me time”. A few minutes of quiet time can be refreshing and help calm your mind and reduce anxiety. A lot of people benefit from practices such as deep breathing, yoga or meditation. Listen to music, or read or listen to a book — whatever helps you relax. Select a technique that works for you and practice it regularly.
Take care of your mind
Reduce stress triggers:
Stick to your regular routine.
Maintaining a regular schedule is vital to your mental health. In addition to sticking to a regular bedtime routine, keep consistent times for meals, bathing and getting dressed, work or study schedules, and exercise.
Keep a schedule for things you enjoy doing. Ultimately, this can will make you feel more in control.
Limit exposure to news media.
Constant news about COVID-19 from all types of media can hike fears about the disease. Limit social media that may expose you to rumours and false information. Also limit reading, hearing or watching other news, but keep up to date on national and local recommendations. Look for reliable sources.
A distraction can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.
Enjoy hobbies that you can do at home, identify a new project or clean out that closet you promised you’d get to.
Doing positive things to manage anxiety is a healthy coping strategy.
Focus on positive thoughts.
Make a choice to focus on the positive things in your life, instead of dwelling on how bad you feel.
Consider starting each day with a gratitude list. Maintain a sense of hope, work to accept changes as they occur and try to keep problems in perspective.
Don’t become overwhelmed by creating a life-changing list of things to achieve while at home. Set realistic goals each day and define steps you can take to reach those goals. Give yourself a pat in the back for every step in the right direction, no matter how minimal. And have it in mind that some days will be better than others.
If you need to stay at home and distance yourself from others, avoid social isolation. Create time each day to make virtual connections by texts, phone, or Whatsapp video calls. If you’re working from home, ask your co-workers how they’re doing and share coping tips. Enjoy virtual socializing and talking to those in your home.
Recognizing what’s normal and what’s not
Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. Everyone reacts differently to difficult situations, and it’s normal to feel stressed during a crisis. But multiple challenges daily, such as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, can push you beyond your ability to cope.
Most people may have mental health concerns, such as symptoms of anxiety and depression during this time. And feelings may change over time.
Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling helpless, sad, angry, irritable, hopeless, anxious or afraid. You may have trouble concentrating on typical tasks, changes in appetite, body aches and pains, or difficulty sleeping or you may struggle to face routine chores.
When you notice these signs and symptoms for several days in a row, and feel miserable and causing problems in your daily life so that you find it hard to carry out normal responsibilities, it’s time to ask for help.
Get help when you need it
Wishing mental health problems such as anxiety or depression away can lead to worsening symptoms. If you have concerns or if you experience worsening of mental health symptoms, ask for help when you need it, and be upfront about how you’re doing. To get the help you may want to:
Call or use social media to contact a close friend or loved one — even though it may be hard to talk about your feelings.
Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.
Contact your employee assistance program, if your employer has one, and get counselling or ask for a referral to a mental health professional.
Call your primary care provider or mental health professional to ask about appointment options to talk about your anxiety or depression and get advice and guidance. Some may provide the option of phone, video or online appointments.
Keep at your self-care strategies
It is expected that your current strong feelings will fade when the pandemic is over, but stress won’t disappear from your life when the health crisis of COVID-19 ends. Continue these self-care practices to take care of your mental health and increase your ability to cope with life’s ongoing challenges.