DHAHRAN: With the rapid spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) worldwide, a barrage of distressing news and statistics, as well as unprecedented challenges at home and in the workplace, it is only natural to feel overwhelmed, anxious and stressed.
Dr. Saliha Afridi, a clinical psychologist and managing director of The LightHouse Arabia, a Dubai-based community mental health and wellness clinic, explained that “in such unprecedented, unpredictable, and uncertain times, it is completely normal to feel these emotions.” In order to navigate through this new “normal,” it is imperative to focus on your mental wellbeing.
Afridi shared five ways to manage and maintain mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Establish a routine
“Routines anchor us and provide a rhythm to life,” she said. Based on priorities, Afridi advises that individuals establish a routine that incorporates their physical, spiritual and emotional-mental wellbeing.
Focus on what you can control
Instead of focusing on what you cannot do, Afridi suggests shifting your energy and focusing on what you can do. One can exercise, practice healthy eating habits and maintain recommended hygiene like washing your hands. “We fear things that we cannot control. Physical action (control) will give mental control, overpowering fear,” she explained. Another approach to lessening anxiety over the situation is to take it one day at a time.
Use positive language
Afridi opined that the terms “social isolation and distancing” were relevant to a time before global connectivity. “Although a physical connection may be missing, we are connected — more than ever — to our family, friends, colleagues and teams.” She suggested using positive language to express or frame your experience. Instead of saying “I am scared of catching the virus,” an example of empowered language that overcomes negativity would be: “I am staying indoors and building immunity.”
Limit your news intake
Afridi likened human behavior of stockpiling food and supplies to that of stockpiling information. “The mind is trying to get a grip of what is happening. We believe the more information we have, the more we can assess or control the situation,” she said. “But this only feeds the beast — anxiety.” She recommended choosing one news organization and one health organization as sources of information and limiting your news intake to once a day, preferably mid-day. Instead, feed your brain by focusing on productive actions or learning something new.
Repurpose your space
Even if you are confined to one bedroom, make it work for you. Afridi suggested repurposing your space from stark and cluttered to clean and soothing. Engage your five senses, for example, light candles or incense to create a pleasant environment. “If there is chaos and clutter on the outside, there will be chaos on the inside,” she explained.