Updated: May 10
As with many of us, the COVID-19 epidemic can be stressful. The fear and anxiety of an illness can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in us and our loved ones. How can we remain calm when a number of questions invade us concerning the spread of the epidemic and its impact on our health, our loved ones, our job, our country and its economy. Here are some tips from Desiree Dickerson, doctor in clinical psychology, to help you get through this complex period with peace of mind:
Manage your expectations
Do not underestimate the cognitive and emotional burden that this pandemic brings, or the impact it will have on your productivity, at least in the short term. Difficulty concentrating, poor motivation and distraction are to be expected. The adaptation will take time. Take it easy. As we settle into this new pace of working remotely and in isolation, we must be realistic in the goals we set, both for ourselves and for our dependents.
Manage your stress level proactively
Try to lay a solid foundation for your mental health and well-being by prioritizing your sleep. Avoid, for example, blue lights before going to bed. Try to maintain good sleep hygiene by maintaining a routine around your normal sleep and wake-up times. Eat well. In particular, you may be tempted to rely on alcohol or other psychoactive substances to manage stress. This is understandable, but will be potentially damaging in the long run. Exercise regularly: it will reduce your stress level, help you better regulate your emotions and improve your sleep.
Identify your limits
One way to manage anxiety episodes is to identify the key physical thoughts or feelings that tend to contribute to your anxiety cycle, and your feelings of overcoming. Our thoughts: "Why can't I concentrate?" Our feelings: frustration, worry, sadness. Our physical sensations: tension, stomach ache, tremors. Our actions: compulsively check the latest COVID statistics. All of this feeds and amplifies each of our negative emotional spirals. Actively reducing physical symptoms through musical immersion, artificial respiration, or simply closing your eyes for a few minutes can defuse this cycle and help you regain control of your thoughts and feelings.
Establish a routine
Routine helps manage anxiety and helps you quickly adapt to this special context. Create clear distinctions between work time and decompression time, ideally in your physical workspace, or more simply in your head, by doing an activity that is not related to any virus and that brings you joy. Working in short bursts with clear breaks will help maintain your mental well-being.
Be kind to yourself and others
There are many things we cannot control at this time, but the way we speak to each other and behave towards each other in these difficult times can either buffer these difficult circumstances or worsen our distress. This pandemic will cause a lot of stress for many of us, and we will all experience moments of weakness. We can however ask for help or reach out when necessary.
Talk to someone every day
To maintain mental and physical health, even the most introverted of us need to keep in touch with others. We are in social isolation, but it is not necessary to feel alone. Above all, do not hesitate to reach out to those who may be particularly isolated.
Managing uncertainty by staying in the present
Take it one day at a time and focus on what you can control. Mindfulness and meditation, classical or musical, can be excellent tools to accompany you.
Article adapted from "Seven tips to manage your mental health and well-being during the COVID-19 outbreak", Dr. Desiree Dickinson, Nature Careers Community (03/2020)