Amid the coronavirus outbreak, it’s important to take care of your mental health as well as your physical health, experts note.
The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that “the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for people and communities.”
“Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children,” the CDC’s website states.
While the emotional impact of an emergency varies for different individuals, the CDC notes that people with preexisting mental health conditions should continue regular treatment plans, as well as being conscious of new symptoms that arise.
“Coping with these feelings and getting help when you need it will help you, your family, and your community recover from a disaster. Connect with family, friends, and others in your community. Take care of yourself and each other, and know when and how to seek help,” the CDC recommends.
Psychologist Elissa Epel, who works at the University of California, San Francisco, also shared some tips for navigating coronavirus-related stress, panic and anxiety.
“When threats are uncertain, such as the current coronavirus situation, our anxious minds can easily overestimate the actual threat and underestimate our ability to cope with it,” Epel notes.
Which is why she and other experts suggest sticking with reliable sources of information, creating a plan to reduce your own risk of interacting with the virus and also checking in with people around you.
"While some anxiety helps us cope, extreme anxiety can become coronavirus panic. When we are in a panic state, we suffer, we stress out our children, we are more likely to make mistakes and engage in irrational decisions and behavior,” she says.
The Child Mind Institute also points parents and educators toward some tips for discussing coronavirus with kids who may be feeling anxious about the situation.
Jamie Howard, the Child Mind Institute’s director of trauma and resilience service, said in an informational video that parents shouldn’t be afraid of discussing the virus outbreak with their kids.
Howard says it’s an opportunity to communicate with kids about the facts. The institute recommends that parents are the ones who consume the news, then relay to kids.
Additionally, the CDC recommends the following measure to look out for your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak:
- Stay informed, but avoid over-saturating yourself with coverage of the virus
- Take deep breaths and try to meditate
- When you can, eat healthy foods and get regular exercise
- Take time to unwind “and remind yourself that strong feelings fade”
- Take breaks from consuming coverage
- Connect with others about what you are feeling
- Maintain healthy relationships with friends or family members
- Try to maintain a sense of positive thinking
The CDC also has resources available about coping with a disaster or traumatic event here.
Here are some things to keep in mind about anxiety, as previously reported by the AJC:
What is anxiety?
Anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), is defined as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”
How is anxiety different from anxiety disorder?
While anxiety is a normal emotional reaction to stress, anxiety disorders involve excessive fear or anxiety.
Generally, someone with anxiety disorder would have fear or anxiety that is out of proportion to the situation or inappropriate for his or her age.
The anxiety would also affect normal day-to-day function.
How many people in the U.S. have anxiety disorder?
Research from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) shows anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million American adults 18 years or older (18.1 percent) each year.
Tips to manage your anxiety and stress
The ADAA put together this helpful infographic with simple but effective tips, such as improving your eating and sleeping habits, squeezing some fitness into your day and more.
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