With the barrage of harsh headlines about COVID-19 on the local, national and international fronts., stress, anxiety and depression can become serious challenges to deal with. Here are some strategies that may be helpful.
UNDERSTAND THIS WILL PASS
While the situation is surely dire, it’s important to know this outbreak will end. There are already some simple ways to mitigate your risk, such as washing your hands and avoiding close contact with others. Like all challenging public health events, we will get through this. And we’ll learn from it.
EVERYONE’S BEING AFFECTED
It’s important to understand that everyone is dealing with the same challenges. One medical expert has said, "People with an anxiety disorder might even be better off than the general public. Putting this on top of other issues in some ways might even be less severe than people with lower levels of anxiety, because the relative difference isn't so much.”
AVOID SELF-ISOLATING IF NOT SICK
While we're supposed to be Locked-Down, it is important to maintain contact with people in whatever way makes sense to do so, whether it’s online, by phone or by other means. Mass cancellations of social gatherings (concerts, sporting events, religious gatherings, etc.) can only add to the feeling of isolation among people with mental health issues. Don't forget that something as simple as a phone call can go a long way toward helping someone. (Did you know that for the 3rd year in a row, Finland is the happiest country in the world? I discovered this when writing my book "Why Being Happy Matters". One reason is their belief in communities. Dr. Robert Putnam (Harvard) writes in his book "Bowling Alone", "We used to be joiners, now we’re not. We don’t embrace bowling leagues the way we used to. Church attendance is off. Book clubs, investment clubs and other gatherings of people into ‘communities’ have lost their allure as we replace pleasant pastimes with helter-skelter lives aimed at achieving things, not enjoying things. The simple act of joining and being regularly involved in organized groups has a very significant, positive impact on individual health, well-being and happiness.”
FOLLOW THE NEWS IN MODERATION
I'm a news junkie at the best of times. Yet, as COVID-19 dominates the international headlines, the concerning news can lead to increased anxiety and "news over-dose". I'm limiting my news intake right now. Yup, it’s important to keep up about what’s going on in the world, but a little goes a long way.
GET A GRIP ON FEAR
Ask yourself if your fear fits the facts, or if it’s exaggerated. The experts say that if your anxiety does not lead to any effective protective action, consider whether the emotion is more harmful than helpful. OK, not to suggest you bury your head in the sand, but you can try to focus on positive facts (such as sickness and death rates declining in Wuhan and China; the rate of recovery increasing; the relatively low death rate of the illness overall; etc.).
DON'T JUST SIT THERE: DO SOMETHING!
Try some general anti-anxiety behaviour: mindfulness, deep breathing, exercise, sleep and good nutrition And talking with someone you trust. Keep a gratitude journal, writing down three things you are grateful for each morning or evening.
FIND YOUR OWN ACTION PLAN
Coping strategies are important when it comes to keeping your mind off this stressful, dangerous situation. Try to do what makes you happy, such as reading, listening to music, chatting with a friend, playing an instrument…. gotta be something you can do other than fret!
Hope this helps, if only a bit.