Daily exposure to news about COVID-19 (coronavirus) may result in a range of responses. Reactions can be emotional, somatic, and/or behavioral, and can impact mental and physical health. It is important to be aware of your reactions to the outbreak and know strategies to cope with distress.
We have gathered several handouts and possible resources on this page, in hope that this will help you take care of your mental health during this outbreak. This information is intended to support community members with loved ones whose daily lives and well-being have been affected by COVID-19.
Pay Attention to Your Reactions
It is normal to experience anxiety and stress reacting to an infectious disease outbreak. Being aware of your reactions can help you decide what you need at the moment to cope with them. For example, when you recognize your anxiety is increasing and interfering with your daily life activities, you can take actions to allow yourself breaks from the worries and decrease the anxiety to a manageable level.
Remember What has Worked for you Before
Different coping strategies work for different people. Try to remember when you last experienced distress (i.e. anxiety, paranoia, depression, etc.), and what you did at that time turned out to be effective in managing the distress. For instance, some people find mindfulness meditation practice helpful in reducing worries and anxious thoughts, others find writing a journal as an effective way in processing the emotional reactions. You already have your own unique way of coping, it just takes some digging to identify them and use them!
It is easy to have our mood swayed by news and information on social media. It is normal to have immediate reactions to these materials about the virus. During these times, it is important to remain calm and objective when digesting the information. Be mindful of potential bias from the person/platform/source who shares the information, and be aware of where to find official and fact-checked information (e.g., WHO website). You are the judge of what information you take in and what information you prefer to leave out.
Limit the Information
Sometimes, too much information leads to overload and more stress. So try to limit your exposure (such as <1 hour/day) to news and information about the Coronavirus. You can also schedule your time to access the information during certain times of your day to avoid constant anxiety. Sometimes you may find the news about the virus all over the internet and you cannot escape, but you can. Try not to click on the links to the news. Spend your free time on things such as books and games rather than social media. Avoid reading information on the topic before going to bed — this can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
Pay Attention to Some Positive News
Despite this difficult time, there is often some positive information in daily news. Decide whether the degree of your worry is consistent with reliable information.
Connect With Others
When in distress, you may feel lonely and isolated in what you are going through. You can benefit from connection with others where you can provide and receive support from each other. You can share your anxiety, worries, and sadness with people you trust, and they may be going through similar feelings. Even when your loved ones don’t feel the same way, you can still spend time with them and distract yourself from the distress. The connection we have and build with others will help us to get through this difficult time.
Learn When to Say “No”
Although sharing can be helpful, sometimes it is can lead to more anxiety. So it is important to say “no” when you are not comfortable with sharing or engaging in conversations on the topic. Just make sure you set your boundaries respectfully or leave conversations in an appropriate way.
Maintain a Healthy Routine
It is important to maintain your regular schedule for sleep, eating, having fun, socializing, studying, and working etc. If this is difficult to achieve by yourself, work with a friend – you can encourage each other in self-care. If some of your routine involves exposing yourself to potential risk of virus infection, you can develop alternatives to your routine and find things you can do by yourself. For example, instead of going to the gym for exercising, you can find different workouts to do at home.
Take a Break and Relax
Engage in conversations and activities unrelated to the outbreak and allow yourself to have some fun. There is still life outside of the current crisis. Reading news and engaging in activities unrelated to the current outbreak is okay – it does not mean that you do not care or are not concerned. Make sure to plan some relaxation or activities you enjoy into your daily schedule, such as deep breathing, coloring, listening to music, taking a shower, taking a walk, etc.