(Disponível em Português)
We are all experiencing a very unusual situation now that naturally enhances worries and feelings of anxiety. In case you are disturbed by this type of feelings, you can allow yourself some personal space to experience them and negative thoughts, at least for some minutes during the day. But please try not to let that smother your mental life.
Avoid constantly watching the news.
While it is important to check official reports once or twice a day, specifically those that focus on what’s happening around your area (e.g. DGS – Direcção Geral de Saúde – or WHO – World Health Organisation – official sites), constant exposure to news and social media can increase the sense of negativity.
Avoid talking about the most negative case-scenarios.
Interrupt your family or friends if they keep talking about these situations. Set an example of how to be constructive.
Refrain from using substances like alcohol or drugs to alleviate stress.
Try to focus on positive situations, which are also happening.
For example, you can learn about people that successfully dealt with COVID-19 and share those examples with your loved ones and friends. Make sure to also focus on those positive aspects.
Throughout history, humans have endured many threatening global challenges. Try to consider the bigger picture and embrace this current challenge with the confidence that you will overcome it. This is the essence of being human and it has allowed us not only to adapt but to thrive. Consider yourself a part of this Universe.
Seek ways to make yourself safe, protected and in control.
You can, for example, follow the recommendations given by the authorities and apply measures that decrease the probability of becoming infected (e.g. social isolation; increasing distance between people; frequently washing your hands). Try avoiding an all-or-none way of thinking. Focus on the things that are at hand and be constructive.
Make an effort to recall those times in your life when you successfully managed difficult situations.
Use the same strategies that were useful then.
Eat healthy food and hydrate frequently.
You can learn more about how to adopt and maintain a healthy diet at the World Health Organization site.
Ask for help, either from other people or from available services in your community.
If your needs are in jeopardy, take a moment to think and come up with a plan. Do not try to solve difficult situations by yourself.
At this point, you are likely practising social isolation. That is a very important way to combat the spread of the virus. Know that you are making a positive contribution to resolving the problem. Be sure to reward yourself for doing so.
Try to maintain daily healthy routines.
Isolation can become boring, try to find sources of comfort at home.
If you are alone at home, use your telephone or any other means of communication to have a good conversation with someone.
Try to organize playful activities with your family or the people you live with
(e.g. board games; telling stories; listening to music). Recovering old traditions can also be a good option.
Use this time to learn something new
or to address a subject that has been left behind, due to lack of time, (e.g. reading, studying, watching documentaries, organizing photos, housekeeping).
If you are taking care of children
Help them to spend their time positively.
Use creative activities that will allow them to express themselves and relax.
Try to understand if they have any major worries or if they are starting to feel sad.
Speak with them soothingly. Tell them that it is natural to feel worried. Use simple words and messages.
Be a good example of control and positive affection.
Children at these times may seek more attention and need more pampering. Respond with positive affection to these demonstrations.
Keep children in contact with loved ones who are not with you.
(e.g. divorced parents, grandparents, uncles) by using the phone or videoconference.
If you are an informal caregiver or the major source of support of elderly people
Focus on doing one thing at the time and start by addressing higher priorities
(e.g. training on how to wash hands). People with dementia can become very anxious or agitated during situations of isolation. They can also have increased difficulty in understanding safety measures. Offer simple information and repeat it as often as necessary.
Make sure that there is a plan to address their needs.
If you are having difficulties, please stop and try to come up with a plan. Seek help, either from other people or community services.
Don’t forget to save a part of your day for yourself
Allow yourself to relax, breath deeply and feel the air coming in and out of your lungs. As an example, you can contemplate on the positive aspects of your life and be grateful for them, while allowing those positive emotions to remain within you.
Champalimaud Neuropsychiatry Unit
April 2, 2020