Thursday | 09 April | 2020
By Anja van den Berg
It’s a scary time. We’re amid a worldwide Covid-19 pandemic and adhering to an unprecedented countrywide lockdown.
Some of us live in provinces with a high count of infected people. Others are bracing for what may come. And all of us are watching the headlines, wondering what is going to happen next?
“For many people, the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus is the hardest thing to handle,” says cardiologist Dr Melinda Smith. “We don’t know how exactly we’ll be impacted or how bad things might get. And that makes it all too easy to catastrophise and spiral out into overwhelming dread and panic.”
Fears about Covid-19 can take an emotional toll, especially if you’re already living with an anxiety disorder. But you’re not powerless. These tips can help you get through this stressful time:
- Stay informed—but don’t obsessively check the news
It’s vital to stay informed, particularly about what’s happening in your community, so that you can follow advised safety precautions and do your part to slow the spread of coronavirus. But there’s a lot of misinformation going around, as well as sensationalistic coverage that only feeds into fear. It’s essential to be discerning about what you read and watch. Stick to trustworthy sources such as the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Limit how often you check for updates and take a break from all media if you start feeling overwhelmed.
- Focus on the things you can control
When you feel yourself getting caught up in the anxiety of what may happen, try to shift your focus to things you can control. For example, you can’t control how severe the coronavirus outbreak is in your province, but you can take steps to reduce your personal risk and the risk that you’ll unknowingly spread it to others. For instance, you can control how often you wash your hands and how stringent you maintain social distancing when you go out for groceries.
- Stay connected – even when physically isolated.
With the order of national lockdown comes social distancing, but humans are social animals; our beings are hardwired for connection. Isolation and loneliness can aggravate anxiety and depression, and even impact our physical health. It’s vital to stay connected as best we can and reach out for support when we need it. Make it a priority to keep in touch with friends and family. If you tend to withdraw when depressed or anxious, consider scheduling regular phone calls, Chat, or Skype dates to counteract that tendency.
Don’t let coronavirus dominate every conversation. It’s essential to take breaks from stressful thoughts about the pandemic and enjoy each other’s company. Laugh, share stories, and focus on other things going on in each other’s lives.
If you feel overwhelmed and you’re not able to cope, it could be time to reach out for professional help. Various therapists and psychologists are making their services available via phone or video Chat. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) is also available during this time.
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2020/03/youre-not-powerless-in-the-face-of-uncertainty
* All information was correct at the time of publication.