Nepal | June 03, 2020

Coping with COVID-19 fears

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Pushpa Priya
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COVID-19 is an infectious disease spread through human-to-human contact by the SARS-COV-2 virus. The disease, first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019, has now spread globally, and become a pandemic. The risk of coronavirus disease increases with travel and exposure to crowds. Researchers have found that travel restrictions can reduce the basic reproduction of the virus, allowing the epidemic to be manageable. There is still no specific treatment for this disease. Some preventive measures can, however, be undertaken like washing hands with soap and water, physical distancing, avoiding travel and crowds, and quarantining of infected people and at risk populations.

The outbreak of coronavirus has spread fear and anxiety among youths, children and older people. Mainly the fear is seen in older people and people with chronic diseases, doctors and health workers helping with the response to the disease, and people with pre-existing mental health conditions.

Anxiety manifests if we think repeatedly of fearful thoughts like: What if I get sick? What if my parents die? What if I lose my job or my home? Therapists say one can overcome the coronavirus fear by keeping a schedule for exercising, eating a healthy diet, meditating, avoiding news and information overload, and maintaining connections with the family and friends through technology.

One should think of using this lockdown period to re-connect with the family with love and affection. In fact, during the busy working schedule, spending quality time with the family was difficult. A sound sleep, music, avoiding alcohol and drugs, and engaging in creative tasks like reading books and engaging in art and gardening are just as helpful in coping with COVID-19 fears and anxiety. An important strategy to relieve stress is to enjoy a good laugh. We should always find a reason to laugh, which is always good medicine.

It’s good to limit one’s exposure to the media, especially if one had been struggling with anxiety before the pandemic. Panic increases when one overestimates a threat and underestimates the coping abilities to overcome the fear. WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus encourages people to check news from reliable sources only once or twice a day. At times like this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health are valid sources of reliable information. “On a mass level, we are in an anxiety phase right now,” said Dr. Edward Silberman, a psychiatrist. According to him, we are facing all kinds of losses, big and small, and no one knows where we are heading. People with mental illness can make an appointment through video or telephone conferences.

Mindful breathing is an important means of overcoming COVID-19 fears. In this process, one should just focus on breathing- inhaling and exhaling, which helps to overcome negative emotions. It is important to take breaks from stressful thoughts about the pandemic to simply enjoy things like a good laugh and sharing stories. Regular exercise for at least 30 minutes is important to release anxiety, relieve stress and manage the mood to overcoming fears of COVID-19. As this is the time to stay at home, one can look online for exercises and follow accordingly. When stress throw one’s nervous system out of balance, relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation and yoga, can bring one back to a state of equilibrium.

Always take precautions, such as social distancing, washing our hands and being cautious. It is not good to let worry and fear overtake us. Engaging in activities that put our minds at peace for a while like a family prayer, reading a holy book, solving puzzles and playing games can be helpful in overcoming COVID-19 fears.

Children should be taught about general knowledge, moral values, plantation, taking care of themselves so that they grow up independently and are able to cope with any kind of eventuality

Taking care of emotional health during an emergency will help one think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect oneself and family. Beware that there will always be rumours during a crisis, especially on the social media. Always check the source and turn to only reliable sources of information, like local government authorities.

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