Stressed & Anxious About Covid-19? These Tips From A Psychologist May Help
Keep calm and read on.
All this stuff about Covid-19 is a lot to take in. The Ministry of Health today (Apr 3) has just further ramped up safe distancing measures (aka circuit breakers). Meanwhile, there’s economic uncertainty looming, the panic buying happening, and, oh my goodness, did that person behind you just cough without a mask on?
The unprecedented coronavirus outbreak — and the never-before-seen influx of info on social media — has invariably taken a mental and emotional toll on people. How do you cope with all this stress, anxiety and paranoia surrounding Covid-19? How do you stay sane in all this madness?
8Days.sg spoke to Sylvie Lian, clinical psychologist at Psych Connect, who shares helpful tips on how to safeguard your mental well-being, and how to help your loved ones who may be struggling.
“Set a time limit for looking at news about Covid-19. That definitely helps,” says Sylvie. “With anxiety and stress, we are likely to have attentional biases, with our focus skewed towards negative news, filtering out positive news.
“Different people react differently to negative news. What drives these different reactions are the different thoughts, feelings and behaviours in an individual. For example, thoughts about Covid-19 can be negative or balanced. You could look at it as, ‘Covid-19 is going to drive us insane, and we’ll be trapped at home [in self-isolation]’, versus ‘It’s a tough time, but there are benefits. I have a chance to spend quality time with my children” or ‘We’ve taken the necessary precautions, and we can make it through this’.
“Check if your thoughts are accurate or helpful. For example, are you catastrophising? Are you thinking in an all-or-nothing terms? Behaviours can be helpful or unhelpful. Instead of panic buying, scrolling through Covid-19-related news relentlessly, or fixating on bad news and spreading them, you could take time to continue with daily activities, take necessary precautions, doing something productive, or help others.
“Meditation and exercise will definitely help. Mindfulness is a great resource for grounding ourselves and bringing our minds back to the present, instead of focusing on future worries. Workouts will increase the feel-good chemicals in our body, and help us gain some sense of normalcy and control. There are many at-home, no-equipment workout videos available online. Spend at least 10 to 15 minutes a day on mindfulness, and for workouts, try to work in at least 10 minutes a day of workout.
“Channel energy towards productive activities, such as learning a new skill, organising the house, etc., rather than scrolling through news. Focusing on helping our family members, or others (even if through contactless support), can help us feel better about the situation and ourselves.
“Write down three things you are grateful for each day. Gratitude works wonders for shifting our mindsets positively.”
“Help them create a coping tools kit, where they can write down the various activities they enjoy, and place items such as scented candles, photographs and so on in the house,” Sylvie suggests. “Take time to talk to them about their concerns. It’s important to help them validate their feelings of anxiety.
“At the same time, gently highlight any unhelpful or inaccurate thoughts — thoughts can be accurate but unhelpful, and vice versa —and help them develop a more balanced view. Help them take their minds off Covid-19 by limiting their time spent exposed to news about the virus, and to develop regular routines that incorporate productive activities.”
“Make dates and appointments with friends and family online, and dress up as if you were heading out, even if you’re not. Designate different parts of the house as different work or activity areas to get some movement breaks and to gain some variety daily. Organise, clean, learn a new skill, do something you have always wanted to do but did not have the time for.”
Sylvie points out a few symptoms of common mental health issues to look out for, especially if you think loved ones around you may need help.
“For depression, symptoms include little interest or pleasure in doing things, feeling down, depressed, or hopeless,” she says. “They may also face sleep difficulties, like oversleeping or insomnia, feel tired or have little energy, have either a poor appetite or are overeating. They may feel bad about oneself and say things like ‘I’m a failure’ or ‘I’ve let my family down’. They may also have trouble concentrating, or move too slow or too quickly as compared to usual. They may also have think that they would be better off dead or have thoughts about hurting themselves.
“Symptoms of anxiety include feeling nervous, anxious or on edge, not being able to stop or control worrying, worrying about different things, having trouble relaxing, restlessness, are easily annoyed and irritable. They may also feel afraid as if something awful might happen. Some people may also suffer from health anxiety. Signs to look out for are preoccupation with having or developing a serious health condition, over-worrying about minor symptoms or bodily sensations, easily fearful and alarmed about health conditions and they do not get reassurance from visits to the doctor and/or negative test results.
“Above all, the important thing that signifies the need for help is that the individual’s social life, interactions, work, daily activities are affected by his or her symptoms, and/or the individual is in significant distress,” Sylvie explains.
More info about Psych Connect at https://www.psychconnect.sg/.