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- Tuesday, 17 March, 2020

Be PERSISTENT!

What can we do to alleviate "pandemic anxiety" in order to maintain our mental health?

RELAX! WHAT WE FEEL IS NORMAL

By now, the coronavirus is likely to have a direct impact on everyone's daily lives, including our mental health. According to research, events that trigger the strongest distress (bad, negative stress) are usually those that are insecure, novel, or that we feel we have no control over. Unfortunately, all three factors are true for the current situation, for fighting the virus. Moreover, we have to deal with these new and sometimes scary things relatively quickly, which can cause great anxiety. So, the feelings we have been experiencing in the recent weeks - anxiety, fear, insecurity, inertia, worrying about the future - are completely normal. The world we used to know to be more or less safe now looks like an insecure and potentially dangerous place with many new, unknown tasks ahead of us. There are many ways in which we can respond to this, depending on our coping strategies and experiences. It is important to keep in mind that although the situation is new and uncertain, we are not completely helpless because we can influence our reactions to stress and our emotions as well.

In the short articles published in the next few days, we will summarize the most important tips (strategies) to strengthen our psychological immune system and to manage the mental strain evolved due to the epidemic. So how do we stay PERSISTENT in this situation?

1. sense of control

One of the main causes of the "coronavirus anxiety" is that we feel that the situation is out of control. We do not know who is infected, whether we are infected, what measures are expected, how long will it last and how will it affect us? The range of questions is endless… It seems logical that it may help if we can increase our sense of control in a given situation. Let us think about what we can actually influence and what we cannot. The more time we spend on things we can influence instead of the ones we have no control over, the less uncertain and anxious we will feel about the situation. We can retain our capacity to act and apply active coping strategies. For example, I decide to stay at home, and I decide to shop with more planning and more consciously! In the media, negative events have much greater weight than in reality, and we also tend to experience negative life events more intensively. This is still the case because we are informed daily or several times a day about the destruction caused by the epidemic. Instead of thinking about this, it may help to focus on protecting the most vulnerable, the elderly and the chronic patients, rather than ourselves.

Things I can influence

Things I cannot influence

I wash my hands regularly

Whether other people wash their hands

I avoid any contact, I stay at home

Whether other people avoid any contact and stay at home

I transform my negative thoughts and reactions

What others think, how they react to news in the media

I take care of myself and others

Whether others are looking after me

The further spreading of the virus

The appearance of the virus

2. information

In addition to increasing our sense of control, it is important to filter the information properly. It is our instinctive characteristic that when we face an unfamiliar situation, we search for more information and we are more sensitive to negative information. In case of an emergency, we often experience irrational anxiety, which further narrows our thinking. It is therefore extremely important that we do not expose ourselves to unreliable and inaccurate information. Almost every minute some news arrive, so it is important that you get information from fewer but credible sources (e.g. WHO, official information websites), read critically, always check the source, and do not share fearmongering or fake news. Finally, a practical piece of advice: limit the number of times we consume news a day, for example, by checking in the morning and in the evening the websites, news we consider to be authentic.

3. social support

Stay in touch with others and seek social support. It is true that during an epidemic we need to physically isolate ourselves from others, but do not lock yourself up! Talk to your relatives and friends via the phone or the Internet. When we talk about our fears, our negative emotions, we get a little relief. Let us not just talk, but also listen to what they tell us. That is, feel free to "vent" and make others "vent"! Such conversations can also ease the anxiety of our own and others. If we feel that anxiety inhibits us in our daily activities, we should contact a specialist who can provide psychological counselling online. Free psychological online counselling is available for our School’s students and staff, visit pszikon.aok.pte.hu for more details. In addition, the #poteathome cooperation program will include many online programs in the coming period about which you can find more information on the POTE events Facebook page.

4. reframe

Research has shown that one of the most useful ways of dealing with any negative life event is to be able to reframe our automatic negative thoughts. Anxiety is often accompanied by irrational thoughts, which are strengthened by panic and the spread of fearmongering news. What can we do about these thoughts? In addition to properly filtering the information, we can use the method of reframing. In doing so, we try to replace our negative, irrational thoughts with rational thoughts that help the active coping. It is important that positive distortions do not help in this case because they may cause us to ignore the real danger and to underestimate the risk factors. This can have the same dangerous consequences as panic, so it is important to have a realistic view of the situation! This does not mean that we cannot be positive and confident or that we should not be aware when something good is happening to us besides the many threatening stimuli. In fact, it is extremely important for us to notice during this period the things that bring us joy, that we can use the words "it is good" besides the sentences that begin with "the problem is". An excellent way to make this happen, for example, is to keep a log of these events and to make ourselves aware of our feelings and thoughts in writing. Here are some examples for reframing:

Automatic negative thought

Reframed thought

"Home quarantine is annoying and unnecessary."

"Quarantine helps protect others from the infection, we have time for household chores”

"It is an exaggeration; it is not more dangerous than the flu."

"If I underestimate the danger, it may seem a little more bearable but it endangers others"

5. relaxation and self-care

We should pay particular attention to activities that help cope with stress on a daily basis. Active or passive relaxation and self-care can be anything that means relaxation and recharging for us, whether it is sports, a good book, social support, a balanced, regular meal or enough rest. We should not neglect the activities that allow us to take in positive experiences, we should just adapt them to the current situation. Methods that help with anxiety management, such as breathing techniques, yoga, autogenic training, relaxation, and meditation are also worthwhile to use regularly. We do not have to leave our home to do these! All you need to do is use YouTube or specialized mobile apps (e.g. HeadSpace, Calm). For those who like traditional methods, there are many books on the subject (e.g. John Teasdale, Mark Williams and Zindel Segal; The Mindful Way Workbook; Alexandra Frey, Autumn Totton: I ​Am Here Now - A Creative Mindfulness Guide and Journal; Prof. Dr. Emőke Bagdy : Relaxation, Rest, Inner Peace).

6. Let us do 

Let us do our best to slow down the spread of the coronavirus and to curb the epidemic! We can do a lot together! Although being isolated and sitting at home, we may not sense this but we are not alone in this "party". And this may be worth considering even when we no longer have to worry about the virus. Do something good for ourselves and others, such as shopping for the elderly neighbour, donating blood, or volunteering if we are healthy. Measures against the coronavirus can sometimes be anxiety-inducing, but remember, they are for the safety of us all. Let us think it over again: what can we influence and how can we help each other? How can we see this situation as something that not only has to be survived, but can develop us too?

7. precautions

In addition to the above, one of our most important tasks remains to comply with the precautions. Take precautions seriously, even though we often have to put aside our own comfort and needs in order to do that. Prepare rationally for the measures expected based on the example of the affected countries, such as quarantine. Do not start panic buying, but make sure you have enough food, medicine, toiletries even if you have to stay at home for two weeks.

conclusion

In conclusion, let us find control, filter information, seek social support, reframe our automatic negative thoughts, take care of ourselves, relax, do something for others so that they can do something for us too and finally, comply with the precautions!

 

Keep your head up!

 

Boróka Gács

Department of Behavioural Sciences

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