It goes without saying that the COVID-19 outbreak is taking a toll on people’s mental health. Do you know anyone who has not been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? I don’t.
But even for people on the front lines, the trajectory of the current Coronavirus outbreak is full of unknowns — and unknowns equal anxiety.
Anxiety, fear, and overwhelm are normal, understandable feelings to experience when we enter uncharted territory of any kind. These emotions are normal reactions to threats and our innate fear of the unknown.
Fortunately, there are ways we can contain and manage not only the spread of the COVID-19 virus Itself but the potential spread of its negative impact on our mental health.
Here are 4 tips for managing stress and keeping your immune system strong until the Coronavirus is contained.
Remind yourself that we are all interconnected
No matter how alone you may feel, you are always part of something bigger. We are all in this together.
Connecting with others, even virtually, strengthens bonds and immunity. It also helps to buffer us against depression and worsened anxiety. This is where virtual technology and some forms of social media are heroes. (Thank you, FaceTime!)
And remember, we have a moral responsibility to take care of people in our community, especially people who are more at-risk.
Remember that we are each responsible for our shared environment
People tend to be at their best when taking care of each other.
Remaining self-quarantined decreases the spread of the virus. It slows down the rate of spread so that hospitals can manage treating the people who are most vulnerable. We are being asked to make personal sacrifices for the greater good.
Remember that we have the capacity for the tenderness and compassion needed to overcome obstacles, challenges — and even a pandemic.
Once panic sets in, biology takes over. Fight or flight mode is front and centre. Our brain is not able to access the prefrontal cortex, the part that helps with rational decision making. When we panic, we tend to make poor decisions.
Ignoring reality does not make it go away. Denial is tempting, but not a useful refuge. It is an extreme alternative to anxiety.
One way to calm ourselves down is to help other people. We diminish our own anxiety by caring for others. The potential ramifications of the COVID-19 outbreak are huge, with economic, recreational, financial, educational and societal implications. Finding concrete ways to cope is essential.
Be of service to others in some way.
Helping other people has been shown to improve our overall health, tame the brain and lower anxiety. Performing acts of service give our brain something to help keep it more even-keeled.
Here are some things you could do:
- Support the local economy through acts of compassion.
- Check-in on elderly or vulnerable neighbours.
- Support local businesses by purchasing a gift card.
- Pay your house cleaners even if they don’t clean your house this week.
- Tip wait staff more money.
- Donate to local food banks.
Implementing these ideas will help you to channel energy while helping your community. Win-win!
Individually, we can’t stop the spread of COVID-19, but we can each do our part.
We are all experiencing an international crisis which is generating tremendous anxiety, fear, overwhelm, helplessness and hopelessness.
Empower yourself. There are things you can think and things you can do to help yourself, your family, your friends and your neighbours.
And, remember, this will pass.