The COVID-19, now a pandemic, is not just a health crisis, it’s a global crisis, an economic crisis, and a mental health crisis. Between the alarming headlines on the news, to the state of emergency declarations that have closed down universities, businesses, national sports teams, and banned travel to and from some of our favorite countries, this virus has become a burden for many, including me!
As a mental health practitioner, I have observed many of my clients become increasingly overwhelmed and fearful of the COVID-19 outbreak. I have heard clients use phrases such as “social distancing”, a term that is utilized by epidemiologists to enforce the limitation of close contact between people. For my clients who already carry the diagnosis of social anxiety, this “social distancing” is a relief, however for my clients who thrive off of social interaction, this is a hindrance.
As with most crises, emotional reactions such as fear, anxiety and stress are common responses when an emergency occurs. However, I understand that there isn’t a “one size fits all” when it comes to describing the psychological impact of a crisis. There are many factors that play a role into how a person may respond to COVID-19, socio-economic status, employment status, history of medical and mental illness and support systems in place, just to name a few.
Although stress and anxiety are normal reactions to crisis, increased symptoms can interfere with responding healthily to emergencies. Unfortunately, we cannot escape the realities of the coronavirus, however, we can learn how to implement effective strategies that will help us cope daily and alleviate our negative symptoms.
The following suggestions, based on psychological research, can help you manage the emotional impact of the coronavirus.
1.First take a step back and breathe. Try your best to fight the urge for negative thoughts and reactions. Assess the situation with a clear mind and calm body. Do your research and obtain factual information about the disease. The CDC and other health authorities are credible resources.
2. Take precautions to be healthy, mentally, spiritually, physically, emotionally and financially. Meditation, exercise, eating healthy food, washing your hands, and budgeting your finances are helpful tools to sustain healthy living.
3.When communicating about this virus, it is crucial to speak about it honestly and in a developmentally appropriate manner. How adults speak to each other should look differently than how adults speak to children and adolescents.
4.If you are becoming overwhelmed or triggered by the alarming updates on the news, take a break from it, and disengage entirely. Engage with things that bring you joy. Pick up a hobby. Enhance your virtual business skills. Get creative.
5. If your symptoms interfere with your daily productivity, seek professional help. You are not in this alone, there are professionals that can support you through this tough time.
The coronavirus crisis has elicited fear and increased stress levels across the globe. It may be instinctual to “fight or flight” or simply become avoidant when a crisis arises. However, we must try our best to be aware of our emotional reactions and get the proper support to sustain wellbeing. Although we can’t cancel the coronavirus right now, we can surely cope with it.
Mental Health Practitioner
Clinical Psychology Doctoral Candidate