Taking care of your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic
Human beings are generally averse to uncertainty. We are hard-wired to want to be in control, and when things feel uncertain like they do now, it is reasonable to feel stressed, anxious and fearful.
Text: Judy Wanjiku Jøregensen
It is day 28 of the COVID-19-coronavirus pandemic lockdown in Denmark. I can feel my head spacing out. My palms are sweaty, and my breath is quickening. I close my eyes and take deep breathes.
Beside me is my six-year-old, calling, nagging me for the umpteenth time. We take a 10-minute break from the homeschooling project of the day. When homeschooling in quarantine isolation, sanity takes precedence.
The global gloom spread by coronavirus is fodder for panic and anxiety. I am aware of how the cognitive distortion of catastrophizing thinking works. Ruminating on the fear of catching coronavirus is both rational and irrational.
Catastrophizing coronavirus leads to more panic Before the lockdown in Denmark, most of us thought COVID 19-coronavirus was a distant novelty. Unbeknownst to us, the pandemic would soon bring our lives to a stand-still. Despite the information of rising coronavirus infections around the world, life before the Danish lockdown continued unabated.
To some extent, one might say that there was a collective sense of compassion fatigue: A coping mechanism of sorts.
And yet here we are, dealing with the ramifications of the global pandemic. Without catastrophizing the future outcome, we can navigate through the current uncertainty without exacerbating more fear. We can assuage fear by looking at this pandemic as a moment to rewrite history.
In the grand schemes of things, when we do get through this challenging time, I hope we will have a newfound appreciation for our planet. May this become an opportunity to think outside ourselves, instead embrace more empathy and compassion.
"By validating your fears and worries, you can go about doing what’s healthy for you, your family and your mental health."
Decide what you feed to your fears By validating your fears and worries, you can go about doing what’s healthy for you, your family and your mental health. That means you can feed my fears the daily dose of need to know non-alarmist information by sticking to facts and steering away from fake news and conspiracy theories.
To feel less anxious, choose to focus on rational worries. Like making sure everyone has enough mental and physical stimulation. Meeting proper nutritional needs and keeping in contact with friends and family.
Fear can be healthy. Fear is a gift that makes us takes self-quarantine seriously and only venture outside only when necessary. It always gets worse before it gets better Trust is a cornerstone of the Danish culture. So far, people are willing to adhere to self-isolation and social distancing. While the COVID-19 pandemic is causing unfathomable uncertainty and fear, it is our response that will determine how fast the virus will keep spreading or die out. We all need to be rational and not buy into the fear.
If I do my part, and you do yours, the statistics might be different, and the curve might have fallen by summer. Please adhere to personal and respiratory hygiene. Stay at home as much as you can.
Coronavirus is not a respecter of persons. It doesn’t care about your race, religion, wealth or health. With this in mind, it is crucial to follow all the precautions set up to help stall the virus. Think outside yourself, and be considerate of others.
So, as we face another week of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, we have a choice to face uncertainty with faith and hope that all will turn out well. There will be discomfort and readjustment. But this is also an opportunity to reconnect, ground ourselves, and be present.
We can’t control the future, but we can control the present and how we respond to these unpredictable times. Instead, surviving this pandemic and helping others survive may be the one thing we can control and help preserve our sanity.