Published: 23rd March 2020
COVID-19: Five tips to stay calm when the nation is in panic
If you’re uncertain about how to handle the
tornado of the ever-changing news and fear about Covid-19- you are not alone
Our idea of ‘normal life’ has been turned upside down- confined to 4 walls with the occasional walk, the increased social distancing and wondering about the uncertain future. There is this collective anxiety – a shared state of stress- that is palpable. If you’re uncertain about how to handle the tornado of the ever-changing news and fear about Covid-19- you are not alone.
While it can feel impossibly hard to cope with this onslaught of news and rush of feelings about
Covid-19, here are some ways to help you navigate the choppy waters:
1. Set boundaries
Never before has the individual choice been as important as it is now, despite the cloud of uncertainty
looming over us. This includes choosing how you want to engage in your own self-care-- a large part
of which includes drawing boundaries for your mental and physical health.
Limit time on your phone on social media if it is triggering- it is very easy to get lost on Instagram,
scrolling- before you know it, one hour is up. Being mindful of the time you spent on social media,
the kind of information and when you consume this is very important.
Maintaining a normal routine helps with working from home and productivity
The time of day very often unknowingly impacts our mood. For instance, filter your news consumption at night as it will impact your ability to sleep peacefully. Alternatively, if you know starting your day off with scrolling through social media or the news app sets your stress levels sky-rocketing, refrain from doing so as soon as you wake up.
Maintaining a normal routine helps with working from home and productivity- start your day as you would on any other day and create a schedule. Refrain from changing into pyjamas/ loungewear as that can prolong lethargy. Ensure your family/ flatmates understand and respect your working/studying from home hours as those boundaries tend to get blurred quickly.
2. Focus on what you can control
Despite the uncertainty and limited knowledge about Covid-19, remember to hold onto the facts we have at the moment and the action steps you can take with this knowledge. Focus on the facts- the proven, verified data on the health crisis and what can be done, on an individual level.
Focus on the facts- the proven, verified data on the health crisis
For example: Fact: The virus spreads via droplets from the nose of an infected individual when coughing or sneezing. Soap and alcohol-based sanitisers are successful in killing the virus. (W.H.O.). Action steps: Washing hands regularly with soap and water, not touch your face, engage in social distancing, clean surfaces at home with disinfectant and so on. Finding quality sources of information is key to avoid falling into the trap of panic induced by false information. For instance, Whatsapp forwards on how eating huge amounts of garlic can kill the virus are not credible and causes the harmful spread of fake news. Consume news only from credible and verified authorities - the World Health Organisation, Centre for Disease Control (C.D.C.) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India.
3. Prioritise sleep, nutrition and movement
Research has shown that mood and immunity are influenced greatly by the amount of sleep, quality
of food and movement. Well-rested Individuals seem to be better at fending off viruses. Practicing sleep hygiene is important to curb anxiety as they are very directly correlated. Even though being at home makes it tempting to sleep all day and stay up binging on Netflix, make it a point to stick to your normal
Continue physical activity in any way possible
Continue physical activity in any way possible- yoga, bodyweight exercises or just dancing to your favourite song. Food also improves your outlook and energy levels - eating processed, fried and sugary foods cause a dip in energy and mood. Research has found that a Mediterranean- style diet with fresh and whole produce reduce symptoms of anxiety amongst young adults.
4. Create moments of hope and joy
Finding hope in such times can be difficult. But there are small ways to shift your outlook to reduce the intensity of the anxiety.
Listening to music can calm you and improve your mood
For instance, tracking small moments of positivity and gratitude throughout the day and reflecting on these at the end of each day. Honing in on these moments can help break the cycle of negativity. Creating small moments of joy daily can also be through being selective and mindful about your time. Carving out time to meditate, read, paint, listen to/create music, play board games with family helps with recentering your perspective and mood and can be very cathartic.
5. Reach out and be empathetic
Social distancing doesn’t mean emotional distancing – thanks to technology, reaching out can be with the click of a button. Applications such as Zoom, Skype and Netflix Party, not only make it convenient to talk but to also watch movies together whilst being in different physical spaces. Reach out to the friend staying alone or stranded overseas. Check in with your elderly neighbours on how they are and if they need any help in buying groceries or around the house. Lastly, remember that any anxiety you are feeling is normal in this current context. But if it has started interfering in your daily functioning to a large and uncontrollable extent, reach out for professional, psychological help via skype or zoom.
The author is a psychologist and Outreach Associate at Mpower Centre, Mumbai