Coronavirus anxiety: how to manage your mental health

COVID-19 is causing anxiety, panic and unrest across the world with new guidelines and recommendations being published and changed frequently.

It’s an extremely stressful time for many, especially those who already have a mental health issue, but even those without a predisposing illness feel stressed and anxious during this time – it is completely normal to feel that way considering the situation.

Fear, panic and anxiety about the Coronavirus can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. It’s important that you, the people you care about, and your community learn new ways to cope and manage the stress.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group have the following practical tips to help you manage your stress and anxiety during this time.

Top 10 tips for managing coronavirus anxiety

  1. Maintain a daily routine as much as possible – get up, get dressed, create a to-do list, etc.

2. Reduce the time you and your family spend watching or listening to media coverage – filter what you are watching, reading and listening to. Don’t have the radio or news channel playing on in the background at home. Learn what you can from these respected sources. Only check these sites at specific times of the day. For example at 8am, 1pm and 9pm.

3. Yes, the situation is frightening, it’s frustrating, and you feel out of control. Acknowledge that and allow yourself specific time to sit with those feelings – and then make sure you focus more time on the things you can control and do. Create a list of things to do to keep yourself busy and active – even during social isolation.

Make a list that you can stick up on the fridge or in your bedroom, make it public so the whole family can add ideas (such as reading books you haven’t been able to get to for months, gardening, watching your favourite movies, do something creative like painting, drawing, poetry, listening to your favourite music, trying a new exercise at home, cleaning out the cupboards that you have been avoiding to do for months, etc.). When you run out of ideas – ask your friends and family for ideas. Do small things every day that you enjoy and help lift your mood.

4. If you take medicine every month, speak to your medical scheme and pharmacist to get scripts filled in advance or arrange for home delivery.

READ MORE How to reduce your coronavirus risk in shops, schools and on public transport

5. If you are really struggling to cope with the situation, don’t be afraid to speak up. Call SADAG, talk to your therapist, create a WhatApp or Facebook support group. Stay connected with people via technology – do more video calls, phone friends to catch up, etc.

6. Mute key words which might be triggering on social media. Unfollow or mute accounts or groups that cause distress.

7. Thinking positively during a crisis is easier said than done. One of the best ways to ground yourself is in fact, in science. Avoid watching or reading news or social media, especially fake news, where facts can become blurred and exaggerated. Listen to what acknowledged experts are saying about the virus. SADAG suggests only following reliable resources such as CDC and WHO.

8. Discuss with family, friends and neighbours what you can do to protect yourselves and be there for each other. Draw up a plan and keep it visible.

9. Ask yourself what you can control – your attitude, your thinking, your home, caring for your body and mind. Focus on these things.

10 Make it a part of your daily routine to reach out to friends and family. Having a sense of connection and a feeling of community is essential for hope and healing.

How to manage depression during the corinavirus

Living With A Mental Illness And Coping During COVID-19

For many people living with a mental health issue, the current situation may be worsening or intensifying symptoms so it is important to take extra care during this time with more support and self-care steps to ensure your mental wellness:

  • If you have a compromised immune system or a medical condition you’re worried about, speak to your doctor for more specific guidance on your treatment.If you are in therapy, speak to your therapist about alternative or online sessions. If you have a scheduled appointment with a psychologist or psychiatrist, do not cancel due to fear of exposure. Call the practice and ask what their new protocol or alternative plans are as many are offering online sessions.
  • Don’t use smoking, alcohol or other drugs to deal with your emotions. If you feel overwhelmed, talk to your mental health professional, counsellor, family or friend. Have a plan, where to go to and how to seek help for physical and mental health needs if required.
  • Use online tools, online forums, helpful websites and online support to help you through this time – try a new app that helps to manage your sleep, or provides mindfulness techniques, listen to a meditation podcast, etc. And if you need ideas – speak to a friend, ask your family or visit www.sadag.org.
  • Avoid searching online, media sourcing or having conversations throughout the day around the virus as this will cause increased anxiety that may lead to panic. Again – filter what you are reading, watching and exposing yourself too, especially since it can be very negative and scary. Try to set specific times to check for updates – but rather spend more time that could be adding value to your wellness such as doing things that you enjoy, doing more relaxation and stress relieving activities.

If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you are struggling to cope, call 0800 456 789 or visit SADAG