Thursday | 02 April | 2020
By Nico Strydom
The Covid-19 pandemic brought along numerous uncertainties together with possible feelings of panic and fear.
According to two clinical psychologists at the Institute for Psychology and Wellbeing (IPW) at the North-West University’s Potchefstroon campus it is understandable that a large number of people’s anxiety levels have gone up – not only in South Africa, but worldwide.
“Anxiety is defined as a feeling of concern, nervousness or uneasiness about something with an unsure outcome,” says Kok and Kruger.
They feel that while the threat is real, the psychological risk in this scenario is that people’s manner of thinking could significantly aggravate this already delicate situation. According to Kok and Kruger the international research community predicts that an estimated 95% of people who contract this virus will in reality show only slight to mild symptoms.
“However, it is predicted that the psychological effect of the current pandemic could have a very serious effect on the mental health of people around the world.”
Kok and Kruger says the measures and regulations announced to try and contain the pandemic, such as self-isolation, social distancing and quarantine, are unnatural and compulsory changes in behaviour, which create a new set of mental-health challenges.
“We are also being locked down with our immediate family members or housemates, and this can cause significant strain on relationships, which could lead to further mental-health challenges. Although many people have the ability to work from home, telecommunication will bring along its own frustrations and challenges, such as miscommunication, problems with reception and the health challenges caused by the fact that you are computer-bound the whole day.”
According to Kok and Kruger it is therefore important to find ways of adapting to the new reality. They explain that if the focus is on factors that can be controlled, such as behaviour and thought processes, it has the potential of giving people new routine and clear focus.
“Even if the consequences of Covid-19 are already far-reaching and palpable, it does not mean that we are without hope and power. Now is not the time to become panic-stricken, but neither must we stay unaware of this worldwide threat or deny it. Now is the time to stand together, be careful and to take care of ourselves and others.”
Kok and Kruger’s practical proposals for handling the anxiety are the following:
- Have a plan ready. “Be more proactive: practise clear health behaviour, wash your hands, avoid places with a lot of people and follow the government’s lockdown instructions – but do not sit in the proverbial rocking chair all day long.”
- Focus on things that matter. “Spend time on a few things that matter, or on hobbies for which you seldom have time (within limits), build relationships, read more and get enough rest, etc. Focus on those things that matter most in your life!
- Maintain perspective. “Although the threat is real, do not underestimate the human body’s capability of combating a virus. Be sensible, but don’t stop living. Focus on those things that you can control.”
* All information was correct at the time of publication.