Apart from the turmoil that the outbreak has brought, the uncertainty we are bearing at the moment also increases our concerns day by day. Catching the virus, getting sick and infecting loved ones are among the main concerns for many. In addition, problems that may occur at work, loss of income, social distancing, and a lack of food, hygiene and health supplies due to empty shelves further increase our anxiety level.
So, what can we do? Psychologist Ceylin Sürek has some recommendations.
Try to stick to your daily routine
Wake up and go to bed at your usual hours as much as possible and try to resume some of your daily activities. Most employees have switched to the home office environment, while students have moved to the online course system. Those who have switched to this system get up at their usual hours, finish up their work and maintain the comfort of working at home. Even if you don't have a built-in routine, you can make use of the advantages of staying at home by making your favorite food or drink and working out in your favorite spot at home. If you cannot resume your exercise routine, use the benefits of technology. You can open various videos of the exercise you are interested in and create a space to do it freely. If you want to exercise by socializing like in the gym, you can choose online group lessons. Physical immobility intensifies stress-related reactions. So be active, Sürek says. Do not postpone the exercise, saying, "I am at home anyway so I can do it later."
Make good use of time
Those aching for more time at home now have the opportunity they had been waiting for. Spend time with your spouse and your children. See this as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with them. Being physically isolated does not mean being socially isolated. Make use of technology and talk to your loved ones and those you have not had the chance to contact for a long time. Make plans to meet them once the lockdown ends. Make a list of movies and TV series you have not yet seen and books you have not read. Try making a dish that you have not tried before. Re-arrange the furniture. Sign up for an online course that will be useful to you or interests you. Although it sounds simple, these actions will allow you to take a break from your anxieties, help you relax and improve your quality of life, Sürek says.
Focus on what you can control
Rather than worry about what you cannot control, concentrate on the situations you have control over, Sürek explains. Thinking about how far this virus has spread or your chances of contracting it will only increase your anxiety. Rather, take control and see what you can do. You can start with self-care and healthy practices. Eat healthy food, pay attention to your sleep patterns, wash your hands well, keep your body active and exercise. Research how to strengthen your immune system. Meanwhile, if you need to go out, take the necessary precautions, use disinfectant, follow the rules of social distancing, change your clothes, ventilate your home. Realize that you have control over the situation and feel the power you have. Do not limit your control over your behavior, and focus on your power of thought.
Acknowledge your concerns
In cases where your anxiety takes over and you feel trapped, it is useful to ask yourselves, “What could be the worst-case scenario, and how likely is it to happen?” See the evidence. You can write your negative thoughts on a piece of paper and try to find alternatives. For example, if you are worried that "we will never get rid of this virus," you can take a look at past facts about pandemics and create alternative and realistic thoughts. You can remind yourself that pandemics end after a certain time and that the world will return to normal.
Be compassionate to yourself, Sürek reminds us. You are going through a difficult period, but you are not alone. When you cannot reach your normal productivity level or concentrate on what you are going to do, stop and remember that you should not put so much of a burden on yourself. You are trying to do your best in less-than-ideal conditions; embrace this situation. You can give yourself a margin of error. Try to slow down so that you can further appreciate the simple pleasures in your daily life. Stay in the moment. Put your phone away and concentrate on what you are doing. Learn to eat slowly, appreciate flavors and textures. If you do this, you will feel full sooner and enjoy the taste of the food more. When you talk to your friends and family, give them your full attention, listen without worrying about other things. Try to enjoy even the simplest things and find fun aspects of it. For example, think about the movement of water and foam instead of dreading the dirty dishes waiting in the kitchen sink. When you change your perspective, you have the opportunity to transform them into pleasant activities instead of obligations.
Stay connected to scientific resources
Many of us want to be aware of everything and constantly follow developments. Firstly, watch and read news from reliable sources. Do not pay heed to the recommendations of people who are not experts in the fields. On the other hand, reading the news about the virus and being on social media may increase your worries. Therefore, set your boundaries, Sürek advises. Try not to keep your phone in your hand all the time. Do not check news or updates while watching a movie or reading a book. When you seize the opportunity to rid yourself of the anxiety, do not dive back in.
Note that a little worry is not always negative
Being in constant anxiety and panic exhausts you and lowers your quality of life. However, a small dose of anxiety can help us. No matter how unpleasant it feels, anxiety encourages us to be prepared for potentially dangerous situations and protect ourselves, Sürek reminds us. For example, our concerns about the coronavirus cause us to stay at home, to avoid crowded places if we go out, to wash and disinfect our hands frequently, and to pay extra attention to the places we touch. However, high levels of anxiety can be harmful; our feelings can be overwhelming, our thoughts unreasonable and our behaviors impulsive. This state of panic can push people to stockpile and create problems for others who may not be able to get what they need. Remember that panic spreads faster than the virus and may cause a chain reaction. In such cases, focus on your coping skills. See what you can do about this situation.
Try meditation and breathing exercises
You can try meditation and breathing exercises to reduce your anxiety. Meanwhile, exercising and doing a different activity may help ease your anxiety. Feel free to ask for help, and share your feelings and thoughts. Many therapists offer online therapy. You can take advantage of these services, Sürek says.
Remember this is temporary
Remember, you are not alone. The whole world is fighting a pandemic that does not discriminate between religion, race or color. Just as humanity has survived other viruses in the past, we will survive this virus together as well. When you feel bored, think about all the health care professionals out there working day and night to keep us safe. Consider the world experts working to stop the epidemic so we can return to our normal lives and remind yourself that this is temporary. Stay healthy, mentally and physically.