Reducing Emotional Twists and Turns in the Coronavirus Journey: Practical Pointers for the Navigation of Coronavirus
Written By: Ken Hopper, MD, MBA, DFAPA
“The only thing we have to Fear is Fear Itself” (Franklin Roosevelt at his 1933 inauguration-in relation to The Great Depression)
Fear could have made economic recovery of The Great Depression very slow and difficult. Luckily, we as a nation brought down irrational fears and anxiety by dealing head-on with the real problem-jump starting the economy.
Are there lessons for the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Coronavirus is a real concern. There is clear scientific guidance on what to do at an individual, community, and national level.
The “Fear Multiplier” could be as bad-or, worse-than the illness itself. The real Fear could be Fear.
Our brain is perhaps the most amazing aspect of our body. Our brain helps us skip “thinking” steps the more times we practice-a very efficient and “learning computer.” Fear, anxiety, and worry can make us skip “computing” steps in a non-helpful spiral. It takes effort to back up and get on track with logical thinking under stressful times.
Here are 10 Practical Pointers for the Navigation of Coronavirus:
Eat, rest, exercise, and take care of yourself: This is good advice at any time. It becomes essential when facing new challenges. Emotional and physical resiliency depends on taking care of the body and mind. https://www.samhsa.gov/programs
Know that your mind may send you down the wrong trail during stress: Fear can distract you from important tasks while fueling obsessions and ruminations The Cleveland Clinic notes, “Although you’ll want to stay informed about COVID-19, it’s important to focus on what you can control. Take a break from media coverage or social media if you find yourself panicking about the news or an article you just read online. If talking endlessly about coronavirus is upsetting to you, change the topic of conversation when you can.”
Get your facts straight: Due to spotty data when the virus was first announced in China, there were multiple lanes of thought-even by the experts. Now that solid data is emerging in Italy and other countries, we have much better and consistent guidance. The CDC is the authoritative resource. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
Keep activities moving forward-even if they are modified: The Cleveland Clinic also gives the following advice. It can be hard with trips and events being canceled, schools being closed and the concept of “social distancing” always at the top of your mind. But it’s important to try to maintain some sort of schedule. Routine makes most people, especially children, feel safe. Try to keep your normal sleep and meal times and focus on activities that make you feel happy – like reading a book, watching your favorite show or playing a board game with your family. Or take a walk, as long as you’re not in quarantine, a little fresh air is always a good idea!
Connect with others: Learn to share, help others emotionally, and ask for support and help from others. “Giving” and “taking” have strong emotional benefits. Healthy relationships, and a strong support system weather many storms!
Take breaks: Downtime and re-charging emotionally help us be sharper and make better decisions. Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Try taking in deep breaths. Try to do activities you usually enjoy.
Stay Informed by routine checks on Expert Opinions: The CDC notes the following. When you feel that you are missing information, you may become more stressed or nervous. Watch, listen to or read the news for updates from officials. Be aware that there may be rumors during a crisis, especially on social media. Always check your sources and turn to reliable sources of information like your local government authorities.
Avoid too much exposure to news: Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. Try to do enjoyable activities and return to normal life as much as possible and check for updates between breaks.
Seek help when needed: If distress impacts activities of your daily life for several days or weeks, talk to a clergy member, counselor, or doctor, or contact the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-985-5990.
Reconnect with your mental health provider proactively or if any sign of imbalance appears: If you have been diagnosed and treated for conditions such as Anxiety, Depression or Bipolar Disorder, as well as Schizophrenia or any Substance Use Disorder, please realize that you are at-risk for an exaggerated stress response. It is advised that you go call and see your therapist and/or doctor to map out a proactive plan of care. Remember, an “Ounce of prevention prevents a pound of cure.”