Minding your health during pandemic
By Samantha Lyles
We are living in strange times. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing widespread and prolonged stress for people around the world, and if you’re feeling the strain, you’re not alone.
A new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 7 in 10 Americans (72 percent) say their lives have been disrupted “a lot” or “some” by the coronavirus outbreak, and three-fourths of respondents say “the worst is yet to come” when it comes to consequences of the pandemic.
More than half of those questioned say they worry about being laid off or losing their jobs altogether, and nearly 60 percent said they fear putting themselves at risk of illness by going to work, but they cannot afford to stay home.
While non-essential businesses are asked to remain closed for the time being, many people are stuck at home and find themselves sucked into an endless cycle of virus-related news, which only tends to exacerbate their worries.
The World Health Organization has released an advisory urging people to stay informed, but don’t gorge on bad news.
“Minimize watching, reading or listening to news about COVID-19 that causes you to feel anxious or distressed; seek information only from trusted sources and mainly so that you can take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones. Seek information updates at specific times during the day, once or twice. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried. Get the facts; not rumors and misinformation. Gather information at regular intervals from the WHO website and local health authority platforms in order to help you distinguish facts from rumors. Facts can help to minimize fears.”
Advice from the Yale School of Medicine calls for something most of us could use more of – kindness.
Normalize those intense or uncomfortable emotions, and don’t judge yourself for feeling anxious or sad or angry. Give yourself credit for following social distancing directives, which were put in place to protect our most vulnerable neighbors.
Doctors are also putting the word out that now is not the time to neglect your body. While it might be tempting to stay in our pajamas all day and eat junk food, that could be a slippery slope.
Get outside and begin your day with some sun and fresh air. Try to eat healthy foods, exercise regularly and get lots of sleep. Set yourself a schedule for hygiene and grooming, house cleaning, laundry, and other chores. Take on home repair or improvement projects you’ve been postponing due to a lack of time. Staying active can have a very positive effect on our bodies and minds.
For those with children at home, confinement and isolation from their friends and schoolmates can present unique challenges. WHO advises carers of children to maintain routines (or create new ones) to give children some reliable structure each day. Try to help kids find positive ways to express their feelings, like role playing or art projects. Also, they say, increased emotional neediness is normal when children feel their world has gone topsy-turvy, so set a good example.
“During times of stress and crisis, it is common for children to seek more attachment and be more demanding on parents. Discuss COVID-19 with your children in an honest and age-appropriate way. If your children have concerns, addressing them together may ease their anxiety. Children will observe adults’ behaviors and emotions for cues on how to manage their own emotions during difficult times.”
Seeking support from friends and family can help mitigate stress, so mental health experts are urging us to stay in touch with loved ones through safe means. Whether you prefer Facetime, Zoom or Skype, checking in face to face can have a positive impact on your mood, so pick up your phone, fire up your computer and get to chatting. A burden shared is a burden halved.
If the stress starts to feel like too much to deal with, remember there are experts out there ready and willing to help. To access coronavirus-related crisis counseling from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline, call 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746. You can also reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741741, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.