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Opinions of Sunday, 26 April 2020

Columnist: Suad Ahmed Salihs

Suad opines: Managing our anxiety amidst coronavirus pandemic

It’s a frightening time. Most countries worldwide are under lockdown and majority of us are affected one way or the other by the Coronavirus.

Headlines and front pages of newspapers are flooded with new cases or increase in death toll due to the COVID-19. We watch all these and we wonder, what’s next?

When we cough, we worry. When a love one sneezes, we worry. Questioning our health and safety. The uncertainty and inadequate knowledge about this virus can be unsettling, and make anyone a little more anxious.

Anxiety is not always a negative emotion because it prepares us to confront crises by alerting us for the fight or flight response. It is the fight or flight response that makes an individual take extra precautions. But it becomes problematic when the need for fight or flight response persist to the extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life.

The outbreak of coronavirus pandemic may be stressful for people. Learning how to cope appropriately with stress can be useful for you and your family. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations depending on their background, personality and the community in which they live in.

Stress during this pandemic could be in the form of fear and worry about one’s own health and the health of your loved ones, changes in sleep, eating patterns and increased ingestion of alcohol or drug.

The people who may respond strongly to stress during the COVID-19 pandemic are older people, people with chronic diseases, those who are at higher risk of the COVID-19, children and teens, families of infected persons and people who have mental health condition.

There are many things that one can do during this global crisis that can help one manage fear and anxiety. These are;

Rely on authentic and trustworthy sources of information such as the WHO, Ministry of Health or Public health experts. It is very important to be informed about the virus and also know what is happening around you in order to take the necessary measures against the disease. However, we must reduce the number of times we search for updates and new feeds on the COVID-19. Frequently following news can soon become a compulsion that will feed one’s anxiety instead of reducing it. You can tell when you have reached your threshold of listening or reading the news.

One way of knowing you have reached your limit is when you feel overwhelmed by the myriad of information about the virus. At this point you should give yourself a break and step away from the media. Information spreads among people like wildfire just like the rate at which the COVID-19 spreads among people. The importance of verifying and relying on bona fide sources of information can never be overemphasized.

You can prevent your friends and loved ones from falling prey to misinformation during the crisis by not spreading false information, verifying information before sharing on social media handles and also by creating panic in people about the dangers of misinformation in these troubled times.

Constantly worrying about things beyond our control is very destructive and feeds on one’s anxiety. During this pandemic, there are lot of situations and occurrences beyond our control. Who will be infected, when a vaccine will be ready, when the curve will flatten, who will die as a result of the virus or how long the pandemic will last?

The difficult truth is that no one has definite answers or controls over it so many people reinforce their worry by surfing the internet for more information about the virus. This will only leave you drained, anxious and overwhelmed. It is rather healthy in this pandemic to move attention from things beyond our control to those within your control. We can reduce the spread of the coronavirus by keeping social and physical distance, washing hands intermittently with soap and water or using alcohol base sanitizers, avoid touching one’s face, nose, eyes and mouth, getting enough rest, eating healthy to boost one’s immune system and religiously following the recommendations of WHO. These are within our control.

Most organizations, schools, universities and companies are closed down until the virus is adequately controlled. We can prevent or manage our anxiety properly during the lockdown period by planning our activities. This will keep one busy and leave little or no room for anxiety related to the COVID-19. However, include in your schedule plan breaks and time to relax to prevent unnecessary stress or tiredness. Be kind to yourself by setting realistic targets that can be achieved to avoid overwhelming yourself.

Social distancing for now is one of the effective ways of preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Ever since the onset of this pandemic, most countries have resorted to lockdown and imposing curfews to restrict movements and impose social distancing rules. During crisis of this kind where human contacts and movements are curtailed, falling on people by communicating frequently can be reassuring and help us maintain our sanity in this tough time.

Stay home, but stay connected. Communicate frequently with friends, family and loved ones. Provide support and a helping hand to people and family without jeopardizing your health or safety. Being able to provide help to others during these difficult times will make you feel better.
Reach out to others when in need.

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