Since the confirmation of our first Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) case on March 12th in T&T, our worlds have gradually grown smaller and more uncertain due to measures of social distancing to prevent the spread of the disease. We have all had to adjust to a new reality, normal daily routines have fallen asunder. Coping with the unknown and navigating school closures, furloughs, abrupt changes in routines, loss of in-person contact with family and friends and fear of contracting the virus is a burden for all of us. All of us are coping with the anxiety generated during this period of uncertainty. Many of us, even those who have not been infected by the virus, have now been in quarantine in our homes, especially since the order of social distancing by authorities and the shutting down of non-essential services. Capsized travel plans, indefinite isolation, panic over scarce resources and information overload could be a recipe for unchecked anxiety and feelings of isolation. Here are a few pointers that could help you survive spiraling negative thoughts about this uncertain time:
- “When the world gives you lemons, make lemonade”. In other words, reframe and change your perspective. With the time in quarantine, you can now focus on your home and yourself. Even though it seems dismal with uncertainty, see the mandatory work-from-home policy as an opportunity to refocus your attention from the external to the internal. Doing one productive thing per day can lead to a positive attitude in this time of negativity. Set your sights on long-avoided tasks, reorganize, or create something you’ve always wanted to. Approaching this time with a mindset of feeling trapped or stuck will only stress you out more. This is your chance to slow down and focus on yourself.
- Try to stay as close as possible to your normal routine. As much as possible try to maintain some semblance of your pre-quarantine routine. As you may be constantly at home, it may be quite easy to rest on your laurels and slip into a more lethargic lifestyle. This is quite unhealthy as it can lead to negative, resulting in anxiety and/or depression. For those with children, sticking to a routine may not be such a challenge. It is advised that one should wake up and go to bed around the same time, eat meals, shower, adapt your exercise regimen, and get out of your pajamas. Do laundry on Sundays as usual. Not only will sticking to your normal routine will keep you active and less likely to spiral down. It will be easier to readjust to the outside world when it’s time to get back to work.
- Avoid being obsessively engrossed in Coronavirus coverage. Because of the freeing up of one’s work or social obligations creates excess time for one to fill the void of free time with an obsession. Looking at social media or general media right now, the overload of COVID-19 information creates the perfect environment to become obsessed with this pandemic creating unnecessary anxiety. Choosing credible websites like the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC: cdc.gov) or the World Health Organization (WHO: who.int), for a limited amount of time per day (perhaps one hour divided into two 30 minutes blocks), will augur to prevent information overload about the pandemic which is a sure-fire way to raise your anxiety levels.
- Keep the inside organized, predictable and clean. With all the uncertainty happening outside, it is advisable to keep your personal space at home in some order. Losing boundaries mentally can be perfect conditioning to descend into disorder and anxiety. For instance, try not to eat in bed or work on the sofa- just as before, eat at the kitchen table and work at your desk. Setting up such mental zones to organize your day’s activity goes a long way in relieving your anxiety. Additionally, keeping your home tidy creates a sense of order in your immediate physical environment. This avoids becoming uneasy and claustrophobic about your environment.
- Create a special quarantine ritual. Do something special in this newfound time during these quarantined days. For instance. start a daily journal to jot down thoughts and feelings to reflect on later. Or you can take a walk every day at 6 pm enjoying the sunset, connect with relatives on WhatsApp or Facebook every morning, listen 30 minutes a day to an audiobook to learn a new language, start a work of art like a drawing or painting you can add to every day. Having something special during this time will help you look forward to each new day.
- Use telehealth as an option to talk to a professional if your anxiety becomes unmanageable. The T&T Association of Psychologists (https://www.facebook.com/Trinidad-and-Tobago-Association-of-Psychologists-TTAP-468137869889569/) have a COVID-19 Stress Hotline in place.
Please access this link for details: https://www.facebook.com/468137869889569/photos/a.663198090383545/2903447733025225/
Letting go of illusions of control and finding peace in the fact that you are doing your part to “flatten the curve” will certainly build mental strength to combat the stressful situation the whole globe is experiencing.
Dr. Visham Bhimull
Primary Care Physician
Diploma in Family Medicine (UWI)