As Seasonal Affective Depression winds down, here are ways to combat stressful pandemic isolation.
With many institutions closing due to COVID-19, many are placing themselves in self-quarantine to reduce their risk of getting ill and further spreading the virus. Although this is the safest option, spending large amounts of time in isolation can put one at risk of fear and anxiety. Without the hustle of city life, individuals have more time to obsess over unpleasant outcomes. However, a large percentage of what we fear never actually happens. It’s the anticipation of the feared event which initiates the body’s fight-or-flight response and causes unnecessary stress. As crucial as it is to watch over your physical well-being during this pandemic, it is also important to keep your mental health in check. This article provides a brief overview of the advice experts have provided regarding how to maintain one’s stress during a pandemic.
One of the first things you can do to keep your stress levels down is to turn off your TV. It’s understandable why people feel the need to check in with news outlets every few minutes. Joshua Gordon, a neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and director of the National Institute of Mental Health, recently told the Washington post that “what is most disturbing about what we’re going through is the uncertainty.” This is because when we know what to expect, we feel in control and, therefore, feel safe. However, Kathy Hogan Bruen, a clinical psychologist who specializes in anxiety disorders, explains that excessive media monitoring “makes mental health worse rather than better.” The University of Berkeley also recommends focusing on the positive things in that one has control rather than obsessing over COVID-19 coverage.
Joshua Morganstein, chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Committee on Psychiatric Dimensions of Disasters, suggests that people create a new daily routine that accommodates social distancing. A new routine which includes regular breaks for meals and leisure will occupy the empty slots in the day which would otherwise be used for worrying and also help one feel more in control. It is also recommended that one implements healthy habits into their daily routine. According to Morganstein, this means “getting good sleep, eating regularly, staying hydrated, [and] exercising.” Healthy habits will aid in managing emotions and preparing the immune system for a possible threat.
A common response during a crisis is to find people to assign blame to. China and the government have been scapegoated by many; however, Dr. Harriet Lerner, a psychologist and author, says that placing blame “leads to a lack of recognition that humans are more alike than different.”
Staying calm is essential to tackling a crisis effectively. While obsessing over media coverage and blaming others can be tempting, remaining level-headed will help one stay safe and healthy.