Coronavirus leaves only shock and pain behind, so, confused and afraid, people are constantly browsing the Net to find out new info about its consequences.
Yet, this has its effects on our mental health, especially in those already struggling with anxiety and OCD.
Doreen Marshall, Ph.D. explains:
“We are hard-wired to want to know what is happening when and to notice things that feel threatening to us. When things feel uncertain or when we don’t generally feel safe, it’s normal to feel stressed. This very reaction, while there to protect us, can cause all sorts of havoc when there is a sense of uncertainty and conflicting information around us.”
Therefore, people online were happy to receive advice on protecting their mental health during the outbreak of the novel virus by the World Health Organization.
This is actually valuable advice, and I reckon applies to Twitter as well. pic.twitter.com/Fp8U3gb1ww
— Scott Bryan (@scottygb) March 10, 2020
According to Anxiety UK’s Nicky Lidbetter, it is normal that individuals with pre-existing anxiety find these times difficult, as the fear of being out of control and unable to tolerate uncertainty are common characteristics of many anxiety disorders.
Rosie Weatherley, spokesperson for mental health charity Mind, agrees, adding that “a lot of anxiety is rooted in worrying about the unknown and waiting for something to happen.”
So, here is how to protect our mental health:
- Be careful what you read, and limit the time you spend reading or watching things, as it might cause panic attacks. Rumor and speculation can fuel anxiety. Instead, pick a time when you will check in with the news to stay informed, but avoid coming across misinformation. Moreover, choose trusted sources of information such as government and NHS websites
- OCD patients and some that struggle with anxiety found it hard to constantly hear that we need to wash the hands, and it may even be a trigger for those who have recovered. Remember, you should wash your hands, but not excessively.
- Mute devices and take breaks of social media, to prevent anxiety. Instead, read a book or listen to music. Avoid spending your time scrolling the Feed to find new articles on the coronavirus
- Stay hydrated, exercise, eat well and try to expose yourself to sunlight and nature wherever possible
- Even though you should stay isolated at home, make sure you stay connected with people, as in times of stress, we need support and company.
This is a tough time for us OCDers. For those who have been through contamination #OCD, the response to #COVID19 feels like watching our brains being flipped inside out. It’s weird seeing people act in ways (repeated sanitizer, fear of touching stuff) we associate with being ill.
— Lily Bailey (@LilyBaileyUK) March 12, 2020
There is a technique, known as “APPLE” by AnxietyUK, that effectively deals with worries and anxiety:
- Acknowledge: Acknowledge the uncertainty as soon as it comes to mind.
- Pause: Pause, breathe deeply, and don’t react.
- Pull back: Tell yourself that it is just a thought or feeling, it is not a fact.
- Let go: Let go of the thought or feeling, without responding to it, and it will pass.
- Explore: Explore the present moment, everything is ok now. Look around, notice what you see and hear, what you can touch and smell. Try to shift your focus.
The author and motivational speaker Anthony Brinkley explains:
“All the time, I’ll say crisis simply reveals your foundation. It could be your faith. It could be your family, altruistic things you do to help other people. Hey look, we got this, we are a great community so don’t let fear just keep you and cripple you.”