Coping with COVID, Keeping Your Head Above Water!

You go to bed, you wake up, you sleep, then wake up. Sometimes you wake up early in the morning, oftentimes not, but when you do, time seems to slip by and it is already evening. It was 2 p.m. last time you checked, how did that happen? Some days seem to blur together, empty weeks pass but the uncertainty still stays. It weighs heavy above your head, of those around you, those closest to you. When will this end?

The current situation has displaced the daily lives of millions. As mentioned in a research article by the Centre for Online Health of The University of Queensland, “Students, workers, and tourists who have been prevented from accessing their training institutions, workplaces, homes, respectively, are expected to have developed psychological symptoms due to stress and reduced autonomy and concerns about income, job, security, and so on.” I struggled writing this piece, often backtracking and rewriting certain points, since it didn’t sit well with me to write an article about giving advice while, at the same time, not following or disagreeing with those same recommendations I had written. After reworking some sections, I have compiled a list of reasons and resources that have helped me deal with my feelings of anxiety and hopelessness regarding these extreme circumstances.

Even darkness must pass

The most important thing to keep in mind is that things will improve and change from where they are now. The Australian Head of Health has written “Events like infectious diseases often follow a predictable course. In the past 50 years, there have been multiple national and international episodes of concern around conditions such as tuberculosis, SARS, Ebola, HIV, hepatitis, measles, to name a few. Initially, there is often scepticism, followed by the attention, followed by panic, followed by reality, followed by a return to normality.“ It might be reassuring to know that there are patterns that can be recognized and that have followed every outbreak. We know each step and we can predict which one will follow the other and that each subsequent step will lead back to normality.

Giving back structure to your life

Being constantly exposed to alarming, gloom-ridden articles and stories only serves to increase your sense of panic and enforces beliefs that there is something worth panicking about and as a result, contributes to the spread of sensationalized stories and disinformation. Anxiety persists when we feel that we have no sense of control, and when we don’t know how to manage and cope with that perceived lack of control. So many current news headlines are dominated by negativity, it is best to limit your exposure to unhelpful media stories and try to redirect that anxious energy into something you can control. Make a schedule, plan out your day and set goals. Planning out your day will bring back some structure into your life that was put on pause by these current circumstances. Setting SMART goals will increase your motivation and reduce feelings of hopelessness.

Another way that helps alleviate stress and anxiety, is identifying negative behaviours and how they make you feel and then replacing and undoing them with helpful coping strategies. The Black Dog research institute, a nonprofit facility that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders, has compiled an extremely helpful self-care COVID-19 resource plan sheet and relaxation techniques for anyone interested in learning more about how they can improve their mental health and wellbeing during the quarantine.

If you’re feeling demoralized about this entire situation…

There are also other ways you can reach out for help. Lots of institutions and organizations are providing mental health services through various communication methods such as videoconferencing, e-mail, telephone, or smartphone apps to people in isolation. The World Health Organization mentioned in their new updated policy that, telemedicine platforms should be used as one of the alternative models for providing direct clinical services and clinical decision support to Strengthen the Health
Systems Response to COVID-19.

As mentioned by the Centre for Online Health of The University of Queensland, these simple communication tools can be and should be used to share information about symptoms of burnout, depression, anxiety, and PTSD during COVID-19. “Telemental health services are perfectly suited to this pandemic situation—giving people in remote locations access to important services without increasing risk of infection.” If you notice that you are feeling overwhelmed, there are plenty of resources online that can help you alleviate feelings of loneliness and distress. Here is a list of resources that you can look into:

Mental health websites like Mental Health Online, moodgym, and Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance provide information, online courses and/or online support groups for people to better understand and cope with their anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD and so on.

Online forums such as Reach Out or Beyond Blue’s forum where you can talk with professionals about treatments, different therapy methods and more. These forums serve to help you regain your sense of community by providing a platform for people to anonymously share their experiences and they aim to reduce feelings of isolation.

Mobile Apps like:

  • IntelliCare, which is a suite of 12 interactive mini-apps that work together to target common causes of depression and anxiety such as sleep problems, social isolation, and obsessive thinking. These apps are part of a nationwide research study funded by the National Institutes of Health.
  • MoodKit is an app developed by Pepperdine University Professor of Psychology and alumni that uses the principles and techniques of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to help users with mood disorders engage in mood-enhancing activities, identify and change unhealthy thinking patterns, rate and track their mood over time, and create journal entries.

The pandemic will end, and in the meantime, you should provide care for yourself, your mental health, and your loved ones. As stated by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention “Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.”

Author: Tamara Zigic, a Mladiinfo Online Volunteer

Editor: Tomica Stojanovikj