Frightened and stressed about coronavirus? Alison Blackler, transformational mind coach and founder of Wirral-based 2minds, says your feelings are normal and offers some valuable wellness tips
We are all in this together. These are confusing, stressful times for all of us. The coronavirus outbreak can be scary and can affect our mental health.
As the COVID-19 pandemic affects numerous facets of our society, it also impacts each person in different ways. The disruptions to daily life are already being felt by many. It is a human need to feel safe and we will all be experiencing a fight or flight response to the situation.
People’s behaviours will alter in response as everything has changed. There is nothing familiar for any of us and it is like being in a movie.
We are likely to feel ungrounded and overwhelmed. Strong emotions will come in waves and as humans are social animals the fear of being isolated may feel overwhelming.
It is normal and ok to feel vulnerable, shocked, anxious or angry as we read news about the outbreak, especially for those who have experienced trauma or mental health problems in the past, or who have a long-term physical health condition that makes them more vulnerable to the effects of the virus.
It is important to acknowledge these feelings and remind each other to look after both physical and mental health. Isolation can increase the risks of mental health issues such as depression, dementia, social anxiety, and low self-esteem. Isolation and mental health issues can also interact with one another in a feedback loop.
Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones.
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
- Worsening of chronic health problems.
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
- Panic and irrational behaviours
While it is important to stay informed, there are also many things we can do to support and manage our wellbeing during such times. It is important to create a new daily routine that prioritises looking after yourself.
It is also key to keep your mind occupied so try reading more, listen to podcasts, watching movies or finding new knowledge on the internet. You will also need to think about having an exercise routine, try new relaxation techniques, or rest and view this as a new if unusual experience, that might have its benefits.
Try to reassure others who may be worried and check in with people who live alone. There is extensive news coverage about the outbreak. If you find that the news is causing you huge stress, it is important to find a balance.
It is best that you don’t avoid all news and that you keep informing and educating yourself, but limit your new intake if it is bothering you.
Try to not judge or jump to conclusions
People manage difficult situations differently and this is very likely to play out when people are scared and afraid. Their behaviour admittedly might not be helpful but judging them doesn’t help the situation.
If you are feeling anxious or worried about the coronavirus then it can be good to get someone else’s point of view. Think about who you speak to – speaking to someone else who is struggling might not be best.
Find somewhere quiet where you can sit down and chat openly and honestly about your feelings and your concerns. It is easy to get overwhelmed in our own pattern of negative thoughts, so talking these though can help break those cycles.
Things you can do to support yourself
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
- Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
- We should also be aware of and avoid increasing habits that may not be helpful in the long term, like smoking, drinking or any excessive behaviours.
Choose to be part of the solution
It will help to try and see it as a different period of time in our lives, and not necessarily a bad one, even if we didn’t choose it. Is now the time for us to learn that new skill or create that something? The one you never had the time for.
There will be a stronger sense of community and pulling together. We have never had anything like this in many of our lifetimes. We are ‘all in this together’ and look out for the acts of kindness, displays of resilience and aim to be grateful for what you do have. These are all part of the solution.