The incessant updates of Coronavirus (COVID-19) have caused nation-wide panic buying of essential items and drastic measures to keep safe.

Countries are implementing extreme quarantine measures, shutting down borders, schools, and stopping unnecessary travel. While following the advice from CDC and maintaining good health is important, so is taking care of our mental well-being.

“We’ve got national anxiety at the moment, a kind of shared stress, and we are all in a state of extreme uncertainty,” explains Catherine Belling, associate professor at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine.

When we are on high alert all the time, it can wear you down emotionally and physically which in turn affects your immune system. Here are some ways you can take care of your mental well-being during the chaos around us all:

1. Be in the moment

During this time, it might feel that so much is out of our control, which only worsens anxiety. It’s important to calm your racing mind and anchor to the present moment.

As you sit read this, take a deep breath through your nose, hold for a few seconds. Exhale through your mouth. Try that three more times. Next, try tensing your shoulders for a few seconds, hold. Then release.

2. Exercise and eat healthy

Daily exercise is not only great for increasing feelings of well-being, but it also boosts your immunity. As does eating a healthy nutrient-rich diet.

When we get stressed, it becomes easier to reach for sugary foods. Use this time as an opportunity to change your diet to one filled with vegetables and whole-grains, less refined and high sugar content foods. Also, try to avoid smoking, alcohol or other drugs to deal with your emotions.

3. Get a good night’s sleep

Along with exercise and a healthy diet, a good night’s sleep is the best thing you can do for your body. It boosts your immune system and helps to combat illness. If sleep is an issue for you, there are tons of apps to listen to before bed like Headspace, Noisli, Insight Timer, and Pzizz.

4. Focus on what you can control

While there’s nothing you can do to 100% guarantee you won’t become sick, you can focus on what is within your control. Here are some other practical steps you can take to lessen risk of catching the new coronavirus:

  • Avoid unnecessary travel and crowds.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 30 seconds (or if that’s not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer).
  • Keep your hands away from your face, especially your eyes, mouth, and nose.

5. Unplug from the media

The news and social media can be filled anxiety provoking headlines. When you are constantly watching something that emphasises the rapid spread of the virus or the lack of effective treatment – then it’s simply becomes fuel for an anxiety fire.

While it’s important to stay up to date, it’s good to limit your exposure. Instead read a book, watch a show, cook a healthy meal, or do some at home yoga. Simply take a break from the chaos for a while.

6. Get your facts straight

To put this into perspective, you have a much greater chance of catching the flu or being injured in a car accident than you do of contracting the Coronavirus. Familiarising yourself with facts and statistics can help you better understand your risks and the bigger picture.

For reliable advice, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO).

7. Get professional help if you need it.

If you can’t stop thinking about the Coronavirus and are having a difficult time with everyday tasks like eating, sleeping and working; or if you are withdrawing from situations and isolating yourself, please get professional help.

A mental health professional can help you take control of your anxiety and there is nothing to be embarrassed about. We offer many online counsellors to help you find the skills to cope during this difficult time.

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