TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF DURING THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK
The COVID-19 pandemic is all-consuming – in the news, on our social media channels, and in how we are able to go about our lives. There is a lot of uncertainty and fear as our “new normal” seems to change every day.
To help our members dealing with the emotional repercussions of the crisis, MedAire’s parent company, International SOS, and Affinity Health at Work have collaborated to produce evidence-based suggestions to support mental wellbeing.
RESEARCH AND LEARN
Do as much research as you can about the risks, the resources available to you (such as medical support if you need it) and your movements. Consider which might be your touchpoints for risk and what you could do to prepare for this. Although simple advice, the better prepared you are, the better able you will be to face any situation that arises.
ACCEPT YOUR WORRIES
Having an emotional reaction (be that anxiety, fear of contagion, anger or frustration) is absolutely normal and is a sign that our body’s natural protective mechanisms have been triggered. It is also beneficial; research has shown that having a moderate level of anxiety means that you are more likely to take precautions such as engage in health seeking behaviours (like washing hands) than those who are not concerned. Further, noticing these feelings and accepting that they are normal – rather than attempting to minimise them or deny them – has been shown to make those feelings less prominent in our minds.
LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
Ironically, the time when we most need to look after ourselves, is often the time when we are least likely to. How many of us cope with stress by drinking more than we would usually, or by eating unhealthy food such as chocolate to comfort ourselves? The evidence however is clear - by looking after yourself and engaging in health promoting behaviours (such as getting good sleep, eating a balanced diet and exercising), you will be protecting yourself both physically and psychologically from the Coronavirus (both the threat of it and the virus itself).
CONSIDER THE INFORMATION YOU RECEIVE
We are bombarded in our daily technology-filled lives with more and more information and it is hard to get away from it. Much of the reporting around the Coronavirus is poor quality and factually inaccurate – feeding feelings of mass hysteria and paranoia. Both a lack of information and poor quality information has been shown to increase irrational thinking. Reflect upon how you are receiving your information around the Coronavirus (for instance from media and from friends and family). How credible is the source? Is the information rational? Is it factually accurate? Could it be heightening your feelings of concern at the moment? Try and challenge the information you receive by questioning how rational and free from bias it is. You may find it useful to restrict your input to sources of information or consciously seek out information only from trusted outlets and bodies.
FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
Studies from previous virus outbreaks (such as SARS) showed that people tend to feel that these threats are less controllable than threats from other stressors. When we feel that a threat is uncontrollable (i.e. that we can do nothing about it), we are also less likely to engage in problem solving or respond flexibly to new situations – in other words, to be able to protect ourselves when and if we need to. Recognising what we are in control of is therefore really important.
Take a moment to think about the threat of the Coronavirus. Create a list with two columns. In the first column write everything that you can do to control the virus (that you have influence over with respect to the Coronavirus). For instance this could include using preventive behaviours such as proper hand-washing. In the second column, write everything down that you can’t control about the virus. You may see that you are taking lots of your time and energy worrying about things you can’t control – rather than taking actions you can. Keep the list handy to remind yourself to focus your efforts and thoughts on what you can do to control the threat and protect yourself.
THINK ABOUT YOUR IMPACT ON OTHERS
Take a moment to consider how others are feeling about the Coronavirus threat at the moment. This might be those who are currently suffering, or those that are quarantined and waiting to find out if they have the virus. Or it might be those who are closer to home. How might your family and friends feel about you and your potential exposure to risk? What could you be doing differently that would help others? It may be that you focus on looking after yourself and engaging in preventive measures more consciously. It may be that you call your friends and family and assure them that you are taking every precaution that you can and you are not going to put yourself at undue risk.
FOCUS ON THE PRESENT MOMENT
In a threat such as this, we find ourselves worrying about the ‘What if?’ and what could happen in the future. This can lead to us feeling overwhelmed and paralysed with concerns that we have no control over. It is important therefore to try and take a step back and focus on what is happening right here and right now.
It might be that you manage this practically by dividing up your day into smaller tasks, and just focusing on each task in turn. Or you may want to try a technique such as mindfulness or meditation to help you. Both have been found to be really beneficial to some by being able to remain in the present moment and dealing with adversity.
You may want to browse Headspace – a course of guided meditation sessions and mindfulness training which can be accessed either online or through a mobile app. www.headspace.com
. Another recommended tool with one of the largest libraries of guided meditations is insighttimer.com.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP
If you are finding that you are feeling overwhelmed by your fears and are struggling to control them; it is likely that this is affecting both your home and work life; and that you would benefit from some professional support. Rather than trying to deal with this alone, seek the support of a Health Professional. If you are a MedAire client, contact your account manager to learn about the different services available to support you.
Content adapted from, 10 Evidence-Based Suggestions courtesy of International SOS and Affinity Health at Work. March 2020.