The coronavirus pandemic is evidently causing a lot of worry across the world. For the majority of people, the current environment and living conditions are unprecedented, and no one seems able to tell us how this crisis will unfold.
For people already suffering from mental health illnesses, including anxiety and OCD for example, the current crisis is a huge challenge. The fear of uncertainty and not having control are common characteristics of many anxiety disorders.
Rosie Weatherley, spokesperson for mental health charity, MIND, has quoted: “A lot of anxiety is rooted in worrying about the unknown and waiting for something to happen - coronavirus is that on a macro scale".
So many of the world’s population are quarantined, big bustling cities are deserted and people are dying. It’s not easy to remain positive but, can we do anything to protect our mental health?
Take a Break From the News and Social Media
> You need to stay informed about the ever-changing news concerning the spread of the virus. Indeed, it’s very hard to avoid the subject in the media and social platforms. But, being constantly bombarded by sad news is also not helpful. Try setting a time limit on how long you spend watching the news for example.
> Stick to trusted sources of information, such as the NHS and government websites and social platforms. Similarly, there is a lot of misinformation out there, pretty much anyone can post on social media. Stick to sources and pages that are reputable or that you already trust.
> For people suffering from anxiety disorders, avoiding triggers can help the issues from escalating. Try muting keywords and hashtags to avoid the topic. You can also try taking a break from, or leaving, chat groups and social accounts which are becoming overwhelming.
> Limit the time you spend focussing on coronavirus and its effects. Maybe take a walk and enjoy the outdoors. You can revisit a hobby or activity, something you once enjoyed but haven’t been able to do in the normal fast-paced world. Board Games or reading are a great way to distract the mind.
> Get in touch with relatives and friends, especially the old or vulnerable. We are not currently in a state of self-isolation in the UK but, you can still stay in contact without personally meeting others. From a traditional phone call to digital platforms, e.g., Skype, we can still support those we care for and in our wider communities.
It's also important to maintain this human contact, even though limited, to counter the negative effects of loneliness and boredom as more and more people self-isolate.
> When it comes to washing your hands and general hygiene, try and follow official guidelines but, remember that so much of it is common sense. For OCD sufferers, this is a particularly challenging time. Charity OCD Action advises people to focus on the recommended amount of time to reduce the risk of spreading of the virus. Try not to male it a ritual - doing it in a specific order because that’s what feels right.
External Sources and helpful links:
BBC News: Coronavirus: How to protect your mental health
NHS: Overview of Coronavirus (COVID-19)
MIND: Coronavirus and your wellbeing
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