How to protect your mental health from the Coronavirus (COVID19) related panic

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Tejaswini Bhave : Clinical Psychologist, Anhad

As the news of corona infected patients in India rolls in, it has also given rise to waves of Panic across the nation. People prone to anxiety and especially health related anxiety are the victims of triggered episodes of extreme panic.

This news will further worsen the emotional state of those people going through Contamination related obsessions and compulsions. Everyday tasks like talking to and meeting people, traveling in bus, going for shopping, attending social functions, official gatherings, air travel, seem to bring in a lot of fear and anxiety.

A small sneeze or a runny nose can be enough to cause fear in yourself. An employee having a common cold and cough can either become butt of jokes and people may avoid even talking to that person, further scaring and shaming him.

While it is always better to stay safe by applying prevention strategies, let us not get struck down by panic and be overly consumed with fear of this novel pandemic. It is important to have balance between required prevention strategies and going overboard by panicking, overstocking medical aids, and isolating oneself.

Practice following helpful strategies to keep your fear at bay :

  1. Stay well informed: Read and follow precautions and care strategies given by WHO and respective health ministries and other official portals. Be certain. Because anxiety thrives on uncertainty. Do not fall prey to pseudo-scientific information being shared on Whats-app forwards. Just eating garlic or carrying kapoor (Camphor ) and tulsi (Basil) will not make you immune.
  2. Do not self diagnose your symptoms. Always visit your qualified doctor to check what symptoms you have and what could that mean. Do not simply Google those. It could create unnecessary anxiety.
  3. Do not isolate yourself without consulting a medical professional. If you feel that you have some symptoms that are similar to COVID19, first get yourself checked and follow the advice of a medical professional. Do not isolate yourself or put yourself in self-quarantine. This shuts off your access to help and other support systems.
  4. If you have family and friends who live away from you, check in on them periodically by calling them, texts, video calls and offer support. Do not induce panic in them.
  5. If you have pre existing mental health conditions like OCD, anxiety, panic disorders or eating disorders do stay in touch with your therapist/psychiatrist. Keep check on your irrational thoughts. Maintain your treatment regimen carefully.
  6. Do not make insensitive jokes, memes on this calamity. It is not a laughing matter. It could be a question of life and death for those affected by it.
  7. Carefully select your news feed of news related to Corona virus make you feel uncomfortable or panicky. Do not pass on misinformed contents without checking its credibility.
  8. Practice hygienic eating and sanitary habits. Teach those who may not know about this virus and who indulge in unhygienic rituals and habits. Keep your immune system strong.
  9. Do not panic buy stuff. Some medical shops are seeing shortage of hand sanitzers, masks and gloves. If your work profile, commute requires using or wearing these things only then buy them.
  10. Do not compromise on good diet, sleep, appropriate hand washing. Follow any rules and regulations given by government and medical officials.

We all are together in this. Lets keep faith.