By Michael Dregni
The World Health Organization offers advice on dealing with the mental-health toll of the pandemic.
The global coronavirus outbreak not only raises medical concerns but also mental-health worries as we all struggle to cope with the issue. To help deal with the stress and anxiety, the World Health Organization (WHO) offers the following advice:
- Talk to people you trust, such as your friends and family. Remember, it’s normal to feel stressed, confused, scared, sad, or angry during a crisis.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle during this disruption in your regular life. Whether you are practicing social distancing or working from home, try to eat a proper diet, get enough sleep and exercise, and keep up social contacts with loved ones by phone and email.
- Try to deal with your emotions and don’t use smoking, alcohol, or other drugs to mask them. If you feel overwhelmed, talk to a friend, or if it’s more serious, a health worker or counselor. Have a plan, know where to go to and how to seek help for physical and mental health needs if required.
- Get the facts. Gather information that will help you accurately determine your risk so that you can take reasonable precautions. Find a credible source you can trust, such as the WHO website at www.who.int, or a local or state public health agency. Doublecheck what you hear or read — especially on social media or the internet — and try not to fall for misinformation.
- Limit worry and agitation by lessening the time you and your family spend watching or listening to media coverage that you perceive as upsetting. Avoid watching, reading, or listening to news that causes you to feel anxious or distressed; seek information mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones. Seek information updates at specific times during the day instead of all day long. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried.
- Draw on skills you have used in the past that have helped you to manage previous adversities, and use those skills to help you manage your emotions.
- Protect yourself and be supportive to others. Assisting others can benefit the person receiving support as well as the helper. It’s also important to practice empathy for those who are affected, in and from any country; those with the disease have not done anything wrong.
- Celebrate the positive stories and images of people who have experienced coronavirus and have recovered or who have supported a loved one through recovery and are willing to share their experience. And honor caretakers and healthcare workers supporting people affected with COVID-19. Acknowledge the role they play to save lives and keep your loved ones safe.
- Help children feel safe if you are a parent, caregiver, or family member by keeping them close. During times of stress and crisis, it is common for children to seek more attachment and be more demanding. Discuss coronavirus with children with honest and age-appropriate information. If your children have concerns, addressing those together may ease their anxiety — and yours. Children will observe adults’ behaviors and emotions for cues on how to manage their own emotions during difficult times.
- Maintain familiar routines in daily life as much as possible — especially if children are confined to home. Provide engaging age-appropriate activities for children. As much as possible, encourage children to continue to play and socialize with others, even if only within the family when advised to restrict social contact.
- Assist older adults — especially those who are isolated and those with cognitive decline or dementia — as they may become more anxious, angry, stressed, agitated, and withdrawn during the outbreak. Provide practical and emotional support through your family, caregivers, and health professionals. Share simple facts about what is going on and give clear information about how to reduce the risk of infection in words that older people with or without cognitive impairment can understand. Repeat the information whenever necessary. Instructions need to be communicated in a clear, concise, respectful, and patient way, and it may also be helpful for information to be displayed in writing or pictures.