Wednesday | 29 April | 2020
By Emsie Martin
As the Covid-19 cases in South Africa increase, people become more anxious, especially now that we are experiencing a 21-days complete lockdown.
A psychologist at UC San Francisco, Elissa Epel, (PhD), who makes a study of stress, explains the difference between anxiety and panic and the steps that can be taken to prevent the latter. A certain measure of anxiety is normal, but an anxious mind can easily convert into panic.
The good news about wide-spread anxiety is that it causes a quick change. People in affected areas are careful and restrict exposure. Anxiety cultivates preventative and protective action and prevention diminishes anxiety, says Epel.
Like the current coronavirus situation, anxiety might easily cause us to overestimate the threat and our ability to handle it is underestimated. People with existing anxiety are especially vulnerable to these situations.
Some anxiety helps us to handle certain things; extreme anxiety can cause a panic situation. When you are overwhelmed with anxiety, you suffer, you cause your children to be terrified and you are inclined to make mistakes and illogical decisions and these influence your conduct.
Panic causes new problems, such as going out to buy too much, which results in a shortage, for example masks and disinfectants. Remember, your anxiety is transferred to people around you and in this way panic spreads further.
By nature, children are inquisitive and ask questions about the “corona”. Explain the disease to them by way of pictures and reliable sources and help them to control their own fears.
Avoid media exposure
To look if there are new releases about the virus a few times a day just causes a heightened level of anxiety. Usually only one press release is made per day. Predictions and ideas on especially social media can exacerbate panic and sometimes they are completely false and unfounded. Depend on trustworthy sources for information.
Decrease anxiety – decrease risk
In these uncertain times it is important to look after yourself and to do things to combat anxiety. Often meditation, physical exercise, relaxing activities such as music, gardening, reading, drawing and taking a walk will do the trick.
Chronic stress can be very destructive on your physical and psychological health and you might be so anxious about the problem that you don’t pay attention to how it influences your body. Be informed about the basic preventative safety measures and remain calm about the situation.
Diminish anxiety by diminishing your risk of infection
Don’t feel embarrassed because you take precautionary measures. Look after your general health, all of these can help to diminish anxiety.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
- Don’t touch your face.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue.
- Avoid or remain at a safe distance of 1.5m from others and from anyone who is ill.
Do what you can and remain safe!
Die Burger, Gesondheid, Vrydag 20 Maart 2020, p. 4
* All information was correct at the time of publication.