If you’re washing your hands regularly and thoroughly, disinfecting high-touch surfaces of your home every day, only going out for fresh air and essential services, maintaining a distance of at least six feet from other people, and wearing a face mask when you leave the house, you’re doing just about everything you can to avoid contracting COVID-19.
On the other hand, if you’re watching, reading, or listening to the news for hours each day, over-worrying about the people you love, checking your temperature multiple times per day, or expecting the worst in terms of the number of cases, the effect on the economy, and other calamitous scenarios, you may be putting yourself in at risk for catching another disease that’s going around: COVID-19 Panic. Here are some steps you can take to prevent it.
Limit Exposure to the News
Limit the amount of news you’re consuming to about 30 minutes per day. Read optimistic pieces like this article about how technology is helping defeat COVID-19, published by BairesDev. While it’s important to know what’s happening, and especially the latest directives about how to stay safe, overexposure to the news can make you anxious and stressed.
There’s enough to be stressed about without obsessing about every detail of what’s happening in the pandemic or letting your thoughts go into a downward spiral. Instead, focus on things you can control, such as following the advice of public health professionals, doing your job well if you’re able to work, or keeping your kids entertained.
Know What to Look For
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists some of the symptoms of increased stress:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or those close to you, take some or all of the suggestions listed here.
Take Care of Yourself
Continue to do the things that make you feel healthy during normal times. That includes eating well, sleeping enough, and getting frequent exercise. Check-in with yourself regularly and take a few deep breaths if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Do things you enjoy, as long as they don’t involve breaking public health mandates. You can play frisbee with members of your household, have a Zoom cocktail party, do a puzzle, or even have a tailgating party without the game (being sure to leave at least six feet of space between vehicles). Use de-stressing techniques like meditation, yoga, and baths.
Remember that part of self-care is keeping in touch with loved ones. There are so many ways to do it now, including texting, video chats, email, and, yes, even old-fashioned phone calls and letters. Social media is fine too, as long as it doesn’t make you more anxious. If possible, focus on topics not related to the pandemic.
Stay connected to your community too. Many groups, including book clubs and churches, are now having their gatherings online.
Ask for Help If You Need It
If you need support, don’t be afraid to seek help. If you just want to vent, ask a good friend or family member to listen. The next step might be talking to a counselor. Many employers have employee assistance programs that can point you to the right resources and many schools have counselors available to help. If you think you need more than that, use the resources below:
- To find a mental health professional, call your health insurance company or speak with your physician. The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Actallows providers to bill Medicare for telehealth-based services.
- The national Disaster Distress Helpline has caring counselors available to help those experiencing emotional challenges related to COVID-19. They can be reached via phone at 1-800-985-5990 or you can text TalkWithUs to 66746.
- Review the National Alliance on Mental Illness COVID-19 Resource and Information Guide, which includes extensive resources for mental health and dealing with various challenges associated with the pandemic.
- If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifelineby calling 1-800-273-8255.
Plan for the Future
While effects from the pandemic are likely to last for months if not years, there will come a time when life will return to normal. Meanwhile, you can use your at-home time to start planning for things you want to do then. Here are a few suggestions:
- Visit friends or family
- Go on a vacation
- Throw a party
- Play or watch sports
- Go shopping
- Go to a concert
- Eat at your favorite restaurant
- Take a class
- Attend in-person groups and meetings
- Complete home improvements
During the pandemic, it’s important to do everything possible to keep your body healthy. But don’t forget about two of the most important parts of your body: your head and your heart. Take steps to stay calm, stay in touch, and get ready for the calm after the storm.
Interesting related article: “What is the Coronavirus?”