It’s been a rough start for 2020. Social media has been abuzz with headlines that have been unsettling, to say the least, since January. It can be taxing to keep up and make sense of it. When the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, stronger initiatives such as community quarantines were set up to contain the virus which introduced a new set of concerns.
Medical experts have observed that epidemics pose a psychological burden that shouldn’t be shrugged off. Reports on declining mental health point to changes in lifestyle and loss of control as primary causes. Feelings of anxiety, paranoia and hopelessness should be dealt with proactively to avoid having them spiral out of control.
Amid the crisis, you might feel alone and powerless. But together we can overcome it by taking action. Here are some tips to stay mentally healthy in the time of COVID-19.
Offer others a safe place to stay and be considerate companions to each other
Not everyone had a roof above their head when the Metro Manila community quarantine was first announced. Lend a hand by supporting groups such as local government units who offer alternative housing. If you can offer a place to stay, extend it to frontliners, people who weren’t able to go back to their families or the urban poor without a home. Also in need of housing are individuals who have difficult relationships with the people they live with, especially victims of domestic abuse.
There are also some people who have to keep their distance from vulnerable family members to minimize the risk of infection. If you’re deciding where to stay, choose the safest option for you and your family whether it’s spending the quarantine apart or together. If you don’t have options, settle differences with your company and be more considerate to each other.
Communicate and comfort
A crisis communication data company found that in the midst of the outbreak, the word “mom” showed up as a source of comfort in conversations on anxiety. There are also tweets expressing concern for older family members who may be more vulnerable. Openly communicate your concerns with your family. If you have a loved one who is in quarantine, assure them that they are not alone and have your support. Phone calls can substitute for hugs in these trying times.
Outside of the family, you can provide comfort by sharing not only words of encouragement but also your skills and talents. Volunteer for awareness and fundraising campaigns. You can write, translate or make graphics at home.
Remain engaged with your community
Social distancing doesn’t necessarily mean no social interaction. For those who rely on going to school or work in order to spend time with others, they might find it hard to sustain their sense of community. By taking part in the efforts to combat COVID-19, you can remain engaged with your community. Whether it’s online or in your neighborhood, ask how you can pitch in.
In addition to that, you can also try planning social gatherings online. It’s fun to reconnect with friends through video call platforms or even multiplayer online games. You can use the same platforms to hold discussions and brainstorm for solutions.
Control your media consumption
While it is good to stay updated in order to make informed decisions, it is equally important to be mindful of your own limits. If your feed is stressing you out too much, consider going offline. Let someone you trust know about this decision and ask them to keep you looped in. Focus more on what you can do to help and the ways others strive to uplift communities.
Alternatively, sharing official statements and fighting fear-mongering fake news online can also bring you self-empowerment and a sense of control.
Eat, drink and donate if you can
Food and water are basic necessities that many don’t have access to right now due to poverty and emptied out store shelves. Humans need to have nourishing meals and drink plenty of water to survive and stabilize their mood. The challenge now is to ration while still providing meals that are filling and nutritious. At home, prepare simple meals such as lugaw with egg or oatmeal. To make food available for more people, help out in meal centers or donate to distribution efforts.
Create a routine
It’s healthy to have a routine. To avoid being idle for the remainder of the quarantine, continue setting goals for the day. It can be personal goals like working out, reaching a work target or learning something new. It can also be something that the community can benefit from such as relaying calls for help on social media to government units or organizations. Whatever it is, deciding how you want to pass the time and working to stick to your plan can be empowering.
Organize and clean
For some people, an organized space means a healthy mind. Decluttering can be a way to maintain a sense of control. Establish a workspace at home if you have a work from home arrangement. Keep doing your chores and sanitizing the home. With sanitation workers being frontliners as well, they need all the assistance they can get, so donate money or in-kind cleaning products to the rest of your community if you have some to spare.
Stay healthy and support healthcare providers
Hospitals and health centers are packed amid the pandemic. A lot of people aren’t getting the treatment they need and healthcare providers are asking the public for more support. Be a healthcare volunteer if you are eligible and take part in projects to create alternative clinics.
It’s also important to get treatment and medical advice for existing mental or physical illnesses while also looking out for COVID-19 symptoms. Online doctor consultations and drugstore delivery services are options you can look into. If you are healthy, continue protecting your immune system for yourself and everyone around you.
Art by Tricia Guevara
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