I recently spoke to Global News about reducing anxiety and supporting your mental health during the COVID-19, Coronovirus global outbreak. Here are some of the tips I mentioned, as well as others that I encourage you to share with your loved ones.
1) Acceptance: Accept that you cannot control everything, and focus on that which is in your control which is taking care of yourself, loved ones, and those in your community.
2) Gratitude: Every day list 3 different things you are grateful for. You cannot repeat the same ones. This will challenge us to focus on positive things in our life.
3) Focus on Facts: There is a lot of information available to us (due to social media and internet) so it is important to focus on the facts. Rely on health and public officials and sources from credible outlets.
4) Set Limits: Limit your screen time and avoid overindulgence of news, articles, posts especially if you are being overwhelmed. There is a lot of misinformation and panic/fear which only serves to heighten one’s own anxieties. Pick 2 or 3 designated times in a day to check your credible news sources, and then do not look up information otherwise. If you feel others are sending too much info, you can choose to let them know to stop sending, and/or disengage from the conversation. You have a right to your own boundaries and the right to process this on your terms.
5) Plan, not Worry: Worrying only serves to worsen our anxiety. It gives us the illusion of action or control. But as an actual behaviour, worrying does not accomplish anything (i.e., worrying won’t make you not get sick). Focus on relying on information that is evidenced based and provided by credible health and public officials and plan accordingly (e.g., following guidelines outlined by them such as hand washing and sanitizing, stopping face touching, social distancing, self-isolation if you travelled out of country) This is all we can actually do. Act and behave in ways that plan and prepare us as best as possible for situations we face.
6) Risk and Resilience: We have to recognize that when in anxious states we tend to catastrophize events and make them worse in our minds than they are in reality (high risk). Tied to this, we also tend to believe that when the worst happens we will not be able to cope or survive (low resilience). Yes COVID-19 is serious health concern and risk. But it doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed to contract the virus and secondly, it does not mean that you will not have the resilience or resources/ability to manage and overcome it. Not everyone who contracts this virus dies. The vast majority recover. We do not want to minimize the threat but have to be balanced and objective in our analysis of the threat.
7) Socialize and Activity Engage with Distance: You can still call, FaceTime, text your friends and loved ones. Stay in touch and reach out. Engage in activities you enjoy (e.g.., read books or paint) and if you are not self-isolating go for a walk in nature for 20-30 minutes as this reduces anxiety and boosts our immune system. Listen to music as it helps our mood and soul.
8) Compassion and Empathy: More than ever, COVID-19 is challenging us and requiring us to come together as a community. Be kind to yourself and others. Help others more vulnerable where you can. Follow health directives to self- isolate or self-quarantine as this is not only helping you but you are helping others from contracting the virus. It is taking the approach that “this is not just about me but the we”. This requires empathy and perspective and expressing a kind humanity towards each other.
9) Regular Routine: As many of us adjust to working from home and significant life changes brought on by COVID-19, it is important to create and maintain a regular structure and routine. This will help us stay productive, and on task. It will also, in the face of uncertainty and change, provide us with psychological and emotional security and stability.
10) Exercise and Nutrition: Continue to engage in physical activity and exercise on a regular basis (within your capacity and limits). Eat healthy and nutritious foods that help maintain and boost your immune system and health.
If you continue to struggle with anxiety and coping, as you attempt to manage these difficult times, please do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional. If you need to talk to someone, we are here for you. Virtual and phone appointments are available with our therapists, 5 days a week. Contact us today – let’s talk.