West College Scotland’s Student Wellbeing Adviser, Kirsty MacEwan, returns with Part 2 of her blog which offers helpful advice on how to deal with Coronavirus-related Anxiety…
Stay connected—even when physically isolated
Evidence shows that many people with Coronavirus – particularly young, apparently healthy people – don’t have symptoms but can still spread the virus. That’s exactly why the biggest thing that most people can do right now to make a positive difference is to practice social distancing.
But social distancing comes with its own risks. Humans are social animals. We’re hardwired for connection. Isolation and loneliness can exacerbate anxiety and depression, and even impact our physical health. That’s why it’s important to stay connected as best we can and reach out for support when we need it, even as we cut back on in-person socializing.
- Make it a priority to stay in touch with friends and family. If you tend to withdraw when depressed or anxious, think about scheduling regular phone, chat, or Skype dates to counteract that tendency
- While in-person visits are limited, substitute video chatting if you’re able. Face-to-face contact is like a “vitamin” for your mental health, reducing your risk of depression and helping ease stress and anxiety
- Social media can be a powerful tool – not only for connecting with friends, family, and acquaintances – but for feeling connected in a greater sense to our communities, country, and the world. It reminds us that we’re not alone. That said, be mindful of how social media is making you feel. Don’t hesitate to mute keywords or people who are exacerbating your anxiety. And log off if it’s making you feel worse.
- Don’t let Coronavirus dominate every conversation. It’s important to take breaks from stressful thoughts about the pandemic to simply enjoy each other’s company – to laugh, share stories, and focus on other things going on in our lives.
Emotions are contagious, so be wise about who you turn to for support
All of us are going to need reassurance, advice, or a sympathetic ear during this difficult time. But be careful who you choose as a sounding board. Coronavirus is not the only thing that’s contagious. So are emotions! Avoid talking about the virus with people
who tend to be negative or who reinforce and ramp up your fears. Turn to the people in your life who are thoughtful, level-headed, and good listeners.
Take care of your body and spirit
This is an extraordinarily trying time, and all the tried-and-true stress management strategies apply, such as eating healthy meals, getting plenty of sleep, and meditating. Beyond that, here are some tips for practicing self-care in the face of the unique disruptions caused by the Coronavirus.
- Be kind to yourself. Go easy on yourself if you’re experiencing more depression or anxiety than usual. You’re not alone in your struggles
- Maintain a routine as best you can. Even if you’re stuck at home, try to stick to your regular sleep, school, meal, or work schedule. This can help you maintain a sense of normalcy
- Take time out for activities you enjoy. Read a good book, watch a comedy, play a fun board or video game, make something – whether it’s a new recipe, a craft, or a piece of art. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it takes you out of your worries
- Get out in nature, if possible. Sunshine and fresh air will do you good. Even a walk around your neighbourhood can make you feel better. Just be sure to avoid crowds, keep your distance from people you encounter, and obey restrictions in your area
- Find ways to exercise. Staying active will help you release anxiety, relieve stress, and manage your mood. While the gym and group classes are out, you can still cycle, hike, or walk. Or if you’re stuck at home, look online for exercise videos you can follow. There are many things you can do even without equipment, such as yoga and exercises that use your own bodyweight
- Avoid self-medicating. Be careful that you’re not using alcohol or other substances to deal with anxiety or depression. If you tend to overdo it in the best of times, it may be a good idea to avoid for now
- Take up a relaxation practice. When stressors throw your nervous system out of balance, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation and yoga can bring you back into a state of equilibrium. Regular practice delivers the greatest benefits, so see if you can set aside even a little time every day
Help others (it will make you feel better)
At times like this, it’s easy to get caught up in your own fears and concerns. It’s important to take a breath and remember that we’re all in this together! As a quote circulating in Italy reminds us: “We’re standing far apart now so we can embrace each other later.”
It’s no coincidence that those who focus on others in need and support their communities, especially during times of crises, tend to be happier and healthier than those who act selfishly. Helping others not only makes a difference to your community – and even to the wider world at this time – it can also support your own mental health and wellbeing. Much of the anguish accompanying this pandemic stems from feeling powerless. Doing kind and helpful acts for others can help you regain a sense of control over your life, as well as adding meaning and purpose.
Even when you’re self-isolating or maintaining social distance, there’s still plenty you can do to help others.
Follow guidelines for preventing the spread of the virus
Even if you’re not in a high-risk group, staying at home, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding contact with others can help save the lives of the most vulnerable in your community and prevent overburdening the healthcare system.
Reach out to others in need
If you know people in your community who are isolated, particularly the elderly or disabled, you can still offer support. Perhaps an older neighbour needs help with groceries or getting a prescription? You can always leave packages on their doorstep to avoid direct contact. Or maybe they just need to hear a friendly, reassuring voice over the phone. Many local social media groups can help put you in touch with vulnerable people in your area.
Donate to food banks
Panic-buying and hoarding have not only left grocery store shelves stripped bare but have also drastically reduced supplies to food banks. You can help older adults, low-income families, and others in need by donating food or cash.
Be a calming influence
If friends or loved ones are panicking, try to help them gain some perspective on the situation. Instead of scaremongering or giving credence to false rumours, refer them to reputable news sources. Being a positive, uplifting influence in these anxious times can help you feel better about your own situation too.
Be kind to others
An infectious disease is not connected to any racial or ethnic group, so speak up if you hear negative stereotypes that only promote prejudice. With the right outlook and intentions, we can all ensure that kindness and charity spread throughout our communities even faster than this virus.