Mental Well-Being Amidst the Coronavirus
updated: Mar 19, 2020
From a mental well-being viewpoint, disease epidemics like the current coronavirus can act as a huge psychological stressor, and can cause extensive fear and uncertainty. The uncertainty is related to there still being some unknowns about the virus. There is emotional distress, leading to behavioral reactions like having trouble falling asleep, anxiety, fear, etc. As a psychiatrist, my role is to acknowledge the emotional distress and other concerns regarding the virus, share important knowledge on what cautionary steps one can take, and closely work with my patients to help them with these distress-related symptoms.
Maintaining Mental Well-Being
Here are my recommendations to overcoming emotional distress and stay safe:
Stay Informed, but Limit Media
One of the most important steps for any outbreak is staying updated on the disease. This can be related to symptoms, scope, or cautionary measures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and American Red Cross are great resources. However, the media can actually create more panic too. This is because it may dramatize current events, making them appear worse than they really are. Therefore, media should be limited and only used to gather brief, useful information. People should limit their media intake to checking the news only a couple times each day, or can even turn off mobile notifications to avoid any sudden unwanted headlines. Avoiding media before bed, not watching the news immediately after waking up, and setting time limits (such as 5 minutes or an hour) are also useful methods.
Good hygiene practices can prevent you from getting sick. Avoid touching your face (especially the eyes, nose, and mouth); wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds; if you need to sneeze or cough, do it into a tissue or elbow; and at all costs avoid people who are sick. If you are sick, limit your contact with others.
Self-care for Mental Well-Being
It is most important to care for emotional distress if you’re experiencing anxiety, nervousness, panic attacks, or the fear of getting sick. Staying connected with family members even if they live in a different town can prevent feelings of isolation or loneliness. Exercising daily for at least half an hour and eating nutritious meals will make you feel healthier and stronger. Finally, listening to calming music can make you feel calmer and more relaxed. Meditation is a great way to reduce anxiety and calm yourself. In fact, I believe in its effectiveness of meditation and practice it every day using apps like Calm and Headspace. If your symptoms are causing you significant distress, I suggest you make an appointment with a psychiatrist like myself. By recognizing behaviors and practicing mindfulness, you can effectively care for your mental well-being.