WASHINGTON - The rapid spread of the coronavirus virus is also having a direct impact on mental health, as stress and anxiety levels in communities seem to be growing by the day.
It’s a new reality that everyone is trying to adjust to, from having to work remotely, to schools shutting down, to just the unknowns about the virus. And while people are trying to go about their daily lives, D.C. clinical psychologist and author of “Hack your Anxiety” Dr. Alicia Clark says we have to start off by first recognizing that our anxiety response is normal, and that we’re not alone.
“Our whole routines from top to bottom have been turned completely upside down...there’s no way not to be worried, not to be thinking do I have enough groceries, did I wash my hands enough, did I touch my face, all those thoughts as we try to do the right thing, it’s very stressful,” said Dr. Clark.
Clark says at a time when there is information overload and daily updates about this global pandemic, it’s important to not allow the stress to have a damaging impact on our mental health.
So how do we do that exactly? She says start with:
Taking Control....doing things we HAVE control of such as washing our hands, cleaning our phones, cleaning our desks and staying away from big crowds.
- Pick 1 source of information
- Practice deep breathing.
“Pick your source of information that’s reliable, maybe government sources like the CDC....Don’t go read everything you find on social media,” said Dr. Clark.
She adds, “make sure you’re getting enough sleep, that’s about 7.5 hours...if you don’t get enough sleep we know Your anxiety will escalate...and if you can keep up your fitness, it will help you manage this information at your best.”
Clark says in addition to deep breathing. If you’re feeling like you May have a panic attack, there’s an exercise: called 5,4,3,2,1 where you sit down and verbally describe 5 things around you that you’re seeing, 4 things you’re touching, then 3 things you’re hearing, smelling and tasting etc. By doing this, experts say you’re bringing your awareness and thoughts into the present.
Bottom line- while it’s important to take the virus seriously and respond appropriately- experts say it’s important to remind ourselves to not panic and to boundaries on social media
Because at some point, you’re not getting useful information; you’re just dwelling on fear.