For many of us, what we face as coronavirus continues to spread is unprecedented,and the associated anxiety around coronavirus pandemic is on the rise.
And it can cause fear and anxiety every which way we turn.
We’re facing social isolation and possibly working from home and employers put precautionary measures in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.
When you go to the shops, your met with fellow shoppers filling up their trolleys and panic buying supplies, a response made by many in an attempt to gain some sort of reassurance.
You’re having conversations with friends and family that no doubt have an impact on how we’re feeling and can further amplify our emotions during a time of uncertainty.
You then turn on the television and watch the news of the way coronavirus is impacting the globe or scroll through social media on your phone to read the online commentary and it can all begin to feel mentally overwhelming very quickly.
But there are practical steps we can take to manage our mental health and subsequent anxiety around the health crisis.
10 daily spoke to clinical psychologist Amanda Gordon to find out exactly what we can do:
Acknowledge how you feel and know you’re not alone
Sweet explained above all, it’s actually natural for some people to feel anxious and that it’s a healthy and expected response to something that is unknown.
“When people are uncertain of something they’ve not experienced, there is little point of reference for them to drawn upon, which can lead to individuals fearing the worse case scenario,” she said.
However stress and anxiety are subjective experiences — so what may feel stressful to one person, may seem minimal to another. In either case, acknowledging how you feel is important.
“Validation is key for when someone expresses their stressful experience or disclose that their stress levels have escalated. It’s in the best interest of the person encountering the stress they are believed, that they heard and that they are accepted,” Sweet said.
“Stress can cause overwhelm, flooding and in some cases, cause a few to catastrophise. Self efficacy is vital for when anyone feels stressed, it’s an indicator for them to be mindful, become self aware and seek support.”
Use the people around you to help gauge your feelings
In addition to acknowledging your own feelings, Gordon said it’s important to talk to others to evaluate what’s reasonable and what’s not about your thoughts too.
“I got some very strange, anxious messages from friends today and I was able to say to them: ‘Look, I’m in the workplace right now, and that’s not the story’ or ‘I’m listening to the news right now, and that’s not the story’,” she said.
“Ensure that you listen to the authorities and don’t listen to random posts or read random posts from people and just accept anything because it’s not all true.”
Fill your time with meaningful activities instead of thoughts
According to Sweet, grounding and mindfulness exercises can be wonderful tools for anyone feeling nervous or scared within this present climate.
“Some great strategies in helping us remain calm are listening to a podcasts, reading and spending quality time with friends, family or anyone who is uplifting and a value add,” she said.
“Children are also enriching to be around and can in-fact help enhance adults lives, being a welcome distraction.”
Gordon agreed, explaining that distraction techniques are good ways to help you deal with the stress you might be feeling.
“Meditate and do breathing exercises as well as physical exercise, do things that control anxiety. Share with a friend if you’re feeling anxious,” she said.
Switch off when you’re feeling overwhelmed
It’s important to strike a balance between staying informed about what’s happening but also switching off when necessary.
“Research shows limiting our exposure to stressful images and information overload can reduce us becoming vicariously traumatised,” Sweet said.
Minimise media exposure and only read or watch evidence based information. I also suggest allocating a specific time within their day to which they view the factual information and for a structured period of time to reduce anxiety around coronavirus.
Sweet said this puts a boundary in place which will aid in feeling safe and secure, as well as dissipating anxiety and minimise catrophising.
“Turn off some of your social media feed. You only need to check out what the rules are once a day or maximum twice a day,” Gordon added.
“That’s as often as you need to hear the health minister talk over and over again about what’s going on.”
Engage with things that are good for you
Gordon said while you might not be able to have as much physical contact with people, social connection is still important in making us feel better and lessening the anxiety around Coronavirus.
“Alright you can’t shake anyone’s hand or give anyone a hug, but you can certainly smile. Smiles can go a long way. You can laugh, that’s not forbidden,” she said.
“You can watch something that’s funny, something you’ve wanted to watch for a long time. You can read a good book and talk about it with a friend, start a virtual book club.”
Turning technology into a positive rather than a negative is also a valuable step towards dealing with your mental health, according to Gordon.
“You can even play Bridge online if you need to, there are all sorts of things you can do using technology as your friend instead of your enemy,” she said.
“Technology can be your enemy at this time because you can start scrolling through and panicking and panicking and panicking or you can use it to engage with people in a really healthy way.”
If you feel that the coronavirus pandemic is affecting your mental space and exacerbating your anxiety, please reach out to one of our clinical psychologists. We have arranged for alternatives to face-to-face consultations for those that are hesitant to travel to our clinic.