Coronavirus & Anxiety: How To Care For Your Mental Health Amid ‘Social Distancing’
There's a fine line between staying informed and feeling overwhelmed. If the current world situation seems a bit much, here's what you can do to be up-to-date, while still keeping calm.
Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
-Dr Viktor Frankl
As many of you are aware, we are facing a pandemic. As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to enter communities around the world, we must keep ourselves informed while following guidelines set out by accurate sources. During this time, one of the best preventative measures we can do is ‘social distancing‘.
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However, we as a species strive for connection and are interdependent on one another. Due to this, even if you’ve never felt anxiety before, dealt with loneliness, or experienced symptoms of depression–you might in this uncertain time. As Dr Viktor Frankl stated above, we have a choice on how we respond; let’s pause, breathe, and move forward with a steady mindful soul.
So how can you cultivate your social well-being while avoiding infection?
“We are not at the mercy of #coronavirus. The great advantage we have is that the decisions we all make – as governments, businesses, communities, families and individuals – can influence the trajectory of this epidemic.” – Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of The World Health Organization.
1. PLEASE follow guidelines from official sources.
Set limits on social media and news consumption about the spread of the Coronavirus. There’s a fine line between staying informed and feeling overwhelmed by the news; don’t allow yourself to be bombarded with anxiety-provoking news all day and mixed messaging being posted online.
Center for Disease Control
World Health Organization
Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (India)
2. A moment of kindness
Getting lots of likes on a social media post may give you a fleeting hit of dopamine, but receiving a direct message or e-mail with a genuine compliment or expression of gratitude is more personal and longer-lasting—without taking much more time. When you find yourself scrolling through people’s posts, stop and send one of them a few kind words. Better yet, give someone a phone call or video chat with them.
3. Cultivate Community
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One of our current public health threats is loneliness. People who do not feel connected to others are more likely to experience depression, develop heart disease, have a lower cognitive function, and live a shorter life. In fact, some compare loneliness to chronic conditions such as diabetes, smoking, and obesity.
Exercise, go on a hike, take a walk or run outside. But when you go outside, do your best to maintain at least six feet between you and others.
Social distancing does NOT equal emotional distancing. Connect with others via video calls, phone calls, text, and virtual dinners. Maybe reconnect and cultivate relationships with family/friends you haven’t spoken to in a while.
4. Maintain a Routine
Much of our knowledge about Coronavirus and how it will effect us is uncertain, but want we can control is our routine. Continue to work, read, spend time with family, pick up a new instrument, take a course online, and exercise as much as possible. Stay healthy, eat well, maintain your hygiene. If you are working from home, take proper breaks for meals and take breaks on the weekends, if that is normal for you.
5. Meditation, Mindfulness & Yoga
Perhaps you have been wondering what meditation and mindfulness is all about. This might be the time to explore and dive in. Staying calm, present, and grounded can truly help get through uncertain times. I recommend the following tools: Waking Up, HeadSpace, and Mindful USC. There are also a number of free online Yoga classes you can view and do in your own home: DoYogaWithMe.
REMEMBER, you are not alone. You might feel unsafe, have difficulties with sleeping, experience anxiety and distressing emotions, or feel socially isolated, and be in stressful situations with changing working conditions. Keep in mind that things will get better. The world is not imploding, don’t go catastrophic. People are intrinsically good.
Humans have gotten through many challenges during our presence on Earth. At this time, the number one thing we can do is follow guidelines and protocol from official agencies as listed above. I request you all to please
(1) Wash Your Hands and
(2) Follow social distancing guidelines (maintain at least six feet distance from others).
These two things alone can save lives.
If you are experiencing any distressing emotions, anxiety, loneliness, or depression due to social distancing during this time, PLEASE reach out to us at email@example.com or send us a message on Instagram @mindsfoundation.
Your mental health during this pandemic is just as important as your physical health. If you feel sick, please isolate yourself, contact a medical professional, and follow official guidelines in your respective location.
(Written by Raghu Kiran Appasani, MD, Founder & CEO, The MINDS Foundation; and Edited by Shruti Singhal)
Images Courtesy: Dr Giuseppe Raviola and team
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