Guide to protect mental health in the time of Coronavirus
Being aware and informed about the pandemic COVID-19 is excellent, but for many people, the stream of constant news and health advisories can worsen their preexisting mental health conditions like anxiety or Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). So how can we protect our mental health in the time of isolation and self-quarantine?
As the number of Coronavirus-affected patients increase in India, the anxiety around the pandemic grows as well. And with constant news of yet another person dying from a Coronavirus infection or the markets entering bear territory - while practising social distancing or isolation, can be triggering for a large number of people.
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To make sure that we take care of our personal wellbeing while the world plunges into uncertainty, the World Health Organisation released an advisory as to how to protect your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak.
This is actually valuable advice, and I reckon applies to Twitter as well. pic.twitter.com/Fp8U3gb1ww— Scott Bryan (@scottygb) March 10, 2020
Coronavirus is not only the global health crisis of our time; it is also a disruptor in the global economy, with some fearing a Coronavirus-induced recession ahead of us. With millions of Indians depending on daily wages, living from hand to mouth, the shutdown of public places among other measures has meant a fear of losing income or seeing their retirement savings plunge from unexpected medical costs.
People dealing with anxiety disorders often experience a feeling of being out of control and are unable to tolerate uncertainty. A growing pandemic without a vaccine (yet), which has jolted supply chains and the world economy, can certainly aggravate those symptoms.
To battle this overall growing panic around the threat of Coronavirus means that not only do we practise everything in our hands (especially washing them with soap at regular intervals) to protect ourselves and others from the virus, but we also must take care of our mental health.
From politics to business, to lifestyle, to even humour, COVID-19 has taken over every sphere of human life. Even our conversations with friends and family often hover around the virus and possible measures to keep it away.
To stop the panic from growing further, staying away from the 24-hour news cycle or social media websites for long periods can be helpful for people dealing with anxiety.
Deciding on a specific time to check the news can keep you informed while not bombarding you with information which doesn't necessarily make you feel better.
Fake news and misinformation can be funny on the surface, but they can be fatal to scores of people. So the source from where you learn about the necessary steps to battle the new Coronavirus is extremely necessary. The WHO, the union health ministry, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can be relied upon for credible information and myth-busting.
The health ministry has launched a 24x7 helpline to deal with your queries and reports. You can reach them on 1075 or +91-11-23978046. You can also reach them via email on email@example.com.
Avoid trigger words and thought loops
Social media can be a minefield when it comes to triggers, and especially so when the uncertainty around a global health crisis is only growing. So one must stay away from unverified news floating on social media. If you click on #Coronavirus or something similar, you'll see way more misinformation and conspiracy theories than plain and boring facts. It's essential that we control our appetite for drama when it comes to consuming information about the pandemic.
Read: How Hollywood is batting Coronavirus
Identifying and muting key words and hashtags can also be a way to keep yourself away from trigger words. If you're a part of Facebook or Whatsapp groups where there is a constant stream of overwhelming conversations and 'forwards', it can be a good idea to mute them.
Take preventive measures - but don't get paranoid
With washing of hands is becoming the most potent tool in battling the new Coronavirus, people with OCD and some types of anxiety can have a tough time controlling this action.
Fear of contamination and germophobia affects a lot of people with OCD. When that is coupled with the threat of a global pandemic, things can spiral out of control.
So it's important that we wash our hands at recommended intervals and for the recommended time period.
Human connection is important
With more people beginning to practice self-isolation, and companies swiftly moving towards 'work from home', it can get difficult to maintain sufficient contact with people around you. This can trigger people who are dealing with depression and loneliness.
So making sure to check up on your loved ones at regular intervals can make a huge difference to your mental health. Even if you're working from home, getting up from your seat and calling a friend for a few minutes can really make a difference.
You must strike a balance between maintaining a routine and doing something new everyday. This can help you go through the uncertainty without it getting monotonous.
Don't stop doing things that make you happy
With weeks and possibly months of Coronavirus pandemic ahead of us, a lot of us can panic and shut ourselves in. But it's important that we do the things we love doing. Like Italy, which is one of the worst affected countries, has seen a large number of people playing music or rethinking community activities while staying in their homes.
Don’t skip your therapy appointments, if you already see a professional, and seek out teletherapy options if you think they’d be beneficial. Skype is also a handy tool to continue your therapy appointments.
If you feel like playing the violin, or exercising, do it. Just avoid public gatherings and crowds. Access nature and sunlight when you take a break. It's really important to see the sun, eat healthy, and find a way of enjoying the self-isolation.
Avoid unnecessary risks
With the markets continuing to be volatile and unstable, if you don’t have a lot of savings, now is perhaps not the time to go on a stock-buying spree because of a thread you saw on Reddit, or a friend who told you that share prices are low.
It's important to wash our hands, listen to public health officials, and focus on things we can control.— NAMI (@NAMICommunicate) March 15, 2020
For support, text NAMI to 741741 or call the NAMI Helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).
More info for people w/ mental illness: https://t.co/qSSyf0VWHS
via @ blessthemessy pic.twitter.com/El8oYyDcP2