COVID-19 is being treated worldwide as a bodily disease with strategies planned for infection control as preventive measures to stop the spread of the virus. Medical professionals are working round the clock to develop vaccines, and pharmaceuticals are manufacturing medications to control symptomatic conditions of the deadly disease.
What is being neglected is our psychological health. The epidemic has caused so much fear and anxiety in our minds. During this period of uncertainty, it is especially important to take the time to care about mental health and wellbeing and practice self-care tips to soothe and ease the mind.
We must first realize that fear is a normal reaction to a highly stressful situation. It is nothing but the brain protecting us in order to conserve life force energy in our body. Nevertheless, it can paralyze our thoughts if it is present for extended periods of time.
Anxiety can steal our joy and peace by consuming our thoughts and kicking our imaginations into overdrive. We start to create worst-case scenarios in our heads, making down-payments on horrifying events that may not ever happen. There is constant noise and unsettled thoughts – worrying about infecting our loved ones, dwelling on death, and fearing for marginalized groups of people. COVID-19 can indeed put us in a spiral very quickly if we don’t stop and manage our anxieties effectively.
Here are my top tips to cope with fear and anxiety during difficult times.
Here’s the good news – emotions are momentary. They can rise like tidal waves but soon pass. Emotion-based coping strategies help one stay upright through these emotional waves by matching feeling to actions.
Taking a hard look at our actions, thoughts or emotions can be a difficult process. At the same time, suppressing them can aggravate our fears instead of making them disappear. Ask yourself, “Are my actions conducive to where I want to go in life?” Give yourself plenty of self-compassion because when it comes to coping, the most important step you take is what action comes next.
Deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing is a sure method of managing the body’s “fight or flight” response to stress. Anxiety can attack the nervous system and result in a range of physical symptoms like shortness of breath, racing heart, trembling, dizziness, and sweating. I highly recommend the daily practice of Pranayama. This is a practice of conscious breath control mentioned in ancient sacred texts like the Vedas. This type of breath control is a sure way of improving health and calming the mind, along with expanding mental abilities.
Mindfulness is the art of being mentally active and accepting the present moment to moment process. It is a three-step process of awareness, attention and acceptance. It can boost our immune system to reduce stress and facilitate healthy relationships. When we tune into what we are sensing, feeling and thinking as it occurs in the present moment without judgement, we can produce long-lasting positive emotions.
Guided mindfulness meditations, eating practices and walking exercises are some of the ways to strengthen the mental muscle. With these techniques, notice your thoughts about the COVID19 situation without judgement or assigning value to it. Be gentle with yourself and watch these thoughts slowing fade with time.
Structure and Routine
The epidemic in the outside world can seem never-ending. Cultivating the habit of having a daily routine can reduce anxiety as it can bring consistency and certainty into our lives. It may not be your normal daily routine but adapting to this temporary situation can help maintain a positive outlook.
During stressful times, we must make sure that we are attending to our needs to the best of our ability, though at times it can be difficult. For instance, skipping meals, over-eating or changing sleep patterns can disrupt the homeostasis or balance in our body and minds. When it is out of balance, we can experience additional health difficulties. Therefore, it is important to protect our wellbeing through consistent routine and habit.
Social distancing can reduce the spread of the virus, yet it is important to have social contact with people around us via technology. Although social media can connect us with friends and family, over-indulging in continuous scrolling can negatively impact our mental wellbeing.
I recommend limiting engagement with coronavirus-related news stories to a maximum of 3 times a day. Put your phone away every now and then, even if it is just for 15 minutes. If you are working on your computer or laptop, avoid the urge to tune into social media.
I cannot stress the importance of engaging with content that have a positive influence and impact on your moods. If they are disturbing the mind, my advice to you is simple – unfollow.
Finally, … Fear and anxiety is understandable during unprecedented times such as these. There has been great loss to life, rapid changes to our lifestyle (study, work, social gatherings), travel restrictions and social distancing. All around the world we are concerned about the safety of our loved ones and there is much uncertainty still.
We must not get lost in fear and anxiety. Instead, we must take this as an opportunity to reset our lives by looking after ourselves and the wellbeing of all mankind using the tips, I have shared with you all.
It is important to recognize the seriousness of this health crisis and be mindful in the way we respond to it. Remember that there are two ways we can look at F.E.A.R. Either we “Forget Everything and Run,” or “Face Everything and Rise.” I urge you to choose the latter. Rise above it and be kind to yourself.