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We’re now firmly in a phase that for many is alarming and unnerving. Beyond the human tragedy, the Covid-19 outbreak has brought with it job losses, an economic upheaval, an upsurge in domestic violence and a rise in anxiety. Somewhere in between all the washing of hands, the numbers keep climbing, and the uncertainty and unpredictability has us collectively feeling rattled. The worry of contracting the disease coupled with the isolation mean the anxiety levels keep rising.
So as we practice social distancing and wonder what our futures hold, how do we cope with this new way of living? Tanya Dharamshi, clinical director and counselling psychologist at Priory Wellbeing Centre, Dubai, outlines 12 ways for us to not let the crisis affect our psychological health.
1. Regain a sense of order
While you may feel the current pandemic is out of your control, there are ways of regaining a sense of control and order at home. Clear out trash and clutter from cupboards, wardrobes, toy boxes, bookshelves, the fridge, etc., recycling unwanted things and refreshing aspects of your home. This will help provide a sense of achievement and a sense of calm.
2. Limit media exposure
While it is important to keep updated with reliable information from the government and official health organisations about preventing and managing the outbreak, you could limit your exposure to social media updates, which can exacerbate stress and worry what with the constant barrage of information and stats. Keep up-to-date by checking the news just once or twice a day, or receive filtered updates from friends/family.
3. Dress to impress
Be strict and try to stick to your ‘normal’ daytime hours and routine as far as possible. Get dressed and out of your nightwear/loungewear every morning. If you’re working from home, get out of your home clothes. No matter your plans for the day, this step will psychologically lend to the feeling of purpose and productivity, and ensure a mindset of purpose and meaning.
4. Enjoy family mealtimes
Mealtimes provide the perfect way to check in with family members and enjoy some quality time together. Take the time to prepare and cook meals together and even try out new recipes. Make a point of dressing-up for dinner on the weekend – this can help to psychologically mark the end of the working week and help make the weekend feel more special.
Whether with family, friends or work colleagues, it’s important to stay connected on a daily basis. Supportive chats and messages are a great way to help keep morale and spirits up during this challenging time. This will also help allay any feelings of anxiety and stress where work is concerned and add some sense of office normality.
6. Learn to relax
Being able to relax will help you through the coming weeks and days. When you’re tense you tend to dwell on things and make them worse, and this can negatively impact both your home and work life. If you are well enough to do it, exercise can really help. Look for online classes or courses. Find music that helps boost your mood. Get into your garden/balcony and get daily doses of sunshine. Take the time to do the things that you’ve always wanted to do for yourself and embrace the opportunity to reflect on the positive impact of a slower-paced life. Anything that allows your mind some time to ‘switch off’ for a set period of time will help you to refocus and remain calm.
7. Ensure me-time
All of us, but mums in particular, should try to set aside ‘me-time’, no matter how limited. Being at home with children all day, every day, can be exhausting both mentally and physically, especially when homeschooling is thrown into the mix. Ensure you have some time alone each day to reset and reboot. Whether it’s having a bath, or calling a friend for a catch-up, this time is essential for preserving your mental health and wellbeing. Children will benefit far more from a relaxed and happy parent than one who is stressed out, impatient, short-tempered and exhausted.
8. A healthy body really does help encourage a healthy mind
So it’s key to follow a healthy diet, to keep hydrated, get enough sleep and stay active throughout the day. Stick to your usual routine and day-to-day activities where you can.
9. We’re in this together
Take a step back and remind yourself that this is a collective experience and one that we need to work together to help manage. There are ways and means we can try to help limit its impact.
10. Help those in need
Turn your attention towards others who may need your help, particularly those with limitations, aged 60 years and above, and those with underlying health conditions, who are most at risk. Providing help and support to others where you can will help shift focus away from your own worries and concerns and in turn help reduce anxiety levels. Even just a phone call to reach out and connect brings a feeling of community care.
11. Keep things in perspective
Adhere to the recommended guidelines relating to precautionary measures to keep yourself and your family protected and remember, many of us affected will experience only mild symptoms and will make a full recovery. This situation is not ‘normal’ and will come to an end.
12. Reach out
Virtual therapy is a good way to seek support and engage with a therapist if you are not able to cope or manage. These are unprecedented times and it is perfectly normal to feel a range of emotions at this time, as well as grief over the loss of your freedom. Engaging with a therapist using a confidential platform can allow you the space to experience the emotions and understand them, thus allowing you to move through this time without a long-term impact on your mental health.