Living in a midst of a worldwide pandemic is undoubtedly frightening for everyone. There are lots of places that are partially shut down, while others are struggling to open in a safe way. Some people are living in countries where the coronavirus numbers are getting worse. In other places, the first wave is over, but they are bracing for the second one. Everyone is watching the headlines and are wondering the same thing; when will it come to an end?
For most people, the most difficult thing to handle is the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus. People still don’t understand fully how they will be impacted, how long it will last and how bad things are going to get. The not knowing makes it all too easy for people to catastrophize and this fear can cause them to spiral out into overwhelming panic and dread. According to Dr. Israel Figa, fears about COVID-19 can take their toll, but there are some things that you can do for managing your fears and anxiety, even in such a unique crisis.
Israel Figa suggests that you should stay informed about what is happening in your community because it allows you to follow the advised safety precautions. In this way, you can play your part for slowing down the spread of the coronavirus. However, there is also some misinformation going around and some sensationalistic coverage is being given with the sole purpose of inciting fear. Therefore, it is important to know where to get your information from to judge its accuracy and reliability. Rather than listening to random people, it is better for you to stick to only trustworthy sources like the World Health Organization (WHO), the CDC, and local public health authorities.
What are the things you should do?
- It is suggested by Dr. Israel Figa that you should limit the number of times you check for updates. Constantly monitoring social media feeds and news can turn counterproductive and compulsive rather quickly because it will fuel your anxiety instead of easing it. Everyone has different limits, so you need to pay attention to the way you are feeling and make adjustments accordingly.
- If you begin to feel overwhelmed, you should take a step back from the media. If anxiety is an ongoing issue for you, it is a good idea to limit your media consumption to a specific time of the day, like listening to it for half an hour in the evening.
- In case you wish to avoid the media entirely, Dr. Israel Figa suggests that you ask someone reliable to give you important updates. They can pass along any major updates that you should know about and save you from having to check the news on your own.
- It is also recommended that you be cautious when you are sharing information. Always do your best to verify any information that you are about to share. You don’t want to be responsible for spreading rumors and creating unnecessary panic.
Focus on things under your control
Everything is in massive upheaval at this time. It feels as if nearly everything is outside of our control, including how other people are behaving, how long the pandemic will last and everything else that is happening in our communities. This can be a difficult thing to accept, and most people’s go-to response is to search endlessly on the internet for answers and imagine all the different scenarios that might happen. However, as long as you are focusing on questions that don’t have any answers and situations that are outside your control, you will get nowhere. Instead, it will leave you feeling overwhelmed, drained and anxious.
If you think you are getting caught up in the fear of what may happen, Israel Figa recommends that you try and shift your focus to things that are actually under your control. For instance, even though you cannot control how severe the coronavirus outbreak is in your town, but you do have the power to take steps that can reduce your personal risk. Some of these things include:
- Washing your hands regularly (for about 20 seconds) with water and soap or using a hand sanitizer that contains about 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your nose, eyes and mouth.
- Avoid gatherings and crowds of more than 10 people.
- Stay at home as much as you can, even if you aren’t feeling sick.
- Avoid all non-essential travel and shopping.
- Maintain 6 feet distance between yourself and other people when you go out.
- Get plenty of sleep because this can give your immune system a boost.
- Follow all recommendations from health authorities.
It is natural for you to be concerned about what will happen if your workplace closes, if your kids have to stay at home from school, if someone you love gets sick or you do, or if you have to quarantine yourself. Thinking about these possibilities can be scary, but Dr. Israel Figa states that if you be proactive, then you will be able to relieve some of the anxiety you face. Some of the things that you can do are:
- Write down the concerns you have about how coronavirus may disrupt your life. It is best to take a break if you begin to feel overwhelmed.
- Come up with possible solutions that you can think of and make a list. Don’t try to get hung up on the ‘perfect’ options because they may not be practical. Add whatever comes to mind and can be helpful in this situation.
- It is a good idea to focus on concrete things that you can change instead of focusing on things that are beyond your control. Doing the latter will only frustrate you.
- Once you have evaluated your options, Israel Figa suggests that you come up with a plan of action. When you have done so, it is best to set it aside and only go back to it when it is needed or there is a significant change in your circumstances.
Stay connected with others
According to the evidence that have been obtained so far, a lot of people suffering from the coronavirus, especially young and seemingly healthy people, don’t really show any symptoms. Yet, they are still able to spread the virus. Consequently, the biggest thing that most people can do right now for making a positive difference is to keep up with social distancing. However, this doesn’t mean that social distancing doesn’t have its own share of risks. Human beings are social animals by nature and have been hardwired for a connection. Loneliness and isolation can exacerbate depression and anxiety, and can even have an impact on your physical health.
Therefore, Dr. Israel Figa says that it is essential for people to stay connected, as much as possible and reach out for support when needed, even if in-person socializing is not possible. Some of the things that can be done are:
- Make it a priority to maintain contact with your friends and family. When anxious or depressed, most people tend to withdraw and in this situation, you should think about scheduling regular chat, phone or Zoom sessions for counteracting this tendency.
- Since in-person visits have to be limited for safety reasons, video chatting can be used as a substitute. Connecting with someone face-to-face plays the role of ‘vitamin’ for your mental health. This means it can reduce the risk of depression and can help in easing anxiety and stress.
- Social media can prove to be an immensely powerful tool, not just for connecting with friends and family, but also for feeling a greater sense of connection with the community, your country and the entire world. It is a way to remind yourself that you are not alone.
- But, you also need to be careful when using social media, according to Israel Figa. You should mute keywords or anyone who can exacerbate your anxiety. If browsing social media is making you feel worse, there is no harm in logging off.
- Most importantly, you shouldn’t let the coronavirus dominate every single conversation you have. You should take breaks from stressful thoughts regarding the pandemic and just enjoy the company of your family. Laugh with each other, share stories and focus on the other things that are happening in your lives.
Attend to your body and spirit
These are trying times and completely unprecedented. No one could have imagined such a time would come, but it has and this is when all the tried-and-tested stress management strategies are applicable. This includes getting lots of sleep, eating healthy meals and meditating. Apart from that, Israel Figa explains that there are some other self-care tips that you can practice to combat with the unique disruptions caused by the coronavirus and they are:
- This is not the time to be hard on yourself. You need to be kind and go easy on yourself, especially when you are experiencing more anxiety and depression than usual. Bear in mind that you are definitely not alone in your struggles.
- Even though it is difficult, it is a good idea to maintain a proper routine as much as possible. You may not be able to go out, but do try to stick to your regular school, sleep, work or meal schedule. This will go a long way in helping you maintain a degree of normalcy in your life.
- As per Dr. Israel Figa, this is the perfect time for you to take some time out for activities you enjoy doing. Watch a comedy, read some good books, play a fun video or board game, or even make something, whether it is a craft, recipe or a piece of art. It doesn’t matter what activity you do, as long as it takes you away from your worries for a short while.
- If possible, go out and enjoy some nature. Fresh air and sunshine will do you some good. Even taking a walk around your neighborhood can help you feel better. Just make sure you avoid heavy crowds and keep your distance when you encounter anyone. Follow all the restrictions when you are out and about.
- Incorporate exercise in your routine. When you stay active, it can help you relieve stress, release anxiety, and also manage your mood. Group classes and gym are not an option, you can still go for a walk, hike or cycle. If you are stuck at home, you can check out online exercise videos. There are a number of things you can do without equipment, such as exercises using your own bodyweight and yoga.
- It is not a good idea to self-medicate, as per Dr. Israel Figa. Make sure you are not using alcohol or other substances for dealing with depression and anxiety. If you tend to overdo things in the best of times, it is a good idea to avoid them for now.
- Add a relaxation practice to your routine. Your nervous system can go out of balance due to stress and anxiety and in such situations, relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing and yoga can be quite helpful in bringing back a state of equilibrium. You can see the greatest benefits through regular practice, so it is best to set aside a little bit of time every day.
In situations like these, it is very easy for people to get caught up in their own fears and concerns. However, amidst all the stories you are coming across, Dr Israel Figa emphasizes that it is important to take a breath and remember that everyone is in this together. During times of crisis, helping others can make you happier and healthier. It makes a difference to your community and even to the world, and it also supports your own wellbeing and mental health. Be kind and helpful to others, as it will add some purpose to your life. Reach out to those in need, be kind to them, be a calming influence and it will help you feel better and deal with your anxiety in an effective manner.