The sudden outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic in Europe might be stressful for all of us, but some people feel the harmful effects of the situation more than others. I have been coping with stress and depression since the epidemic started in Hungary, and we were forced to stay at home to help to stop the disease. Therefore I felt that I need to share some useful advice about how to deal with these mental problems.
The Corvinus University of Budapest provided some useful strategies to cope with emotional problems during the period of the epidemic. I would like to share some points alongside with personal thoughts. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. How you respond to the outbreak can depend on your background, the things that make you different from other people, and the community you live in. Your choice or lack of choice to stay can also influence your current mental status.
Common sources of stress during this period include a drop in meaningful activities, sensory stimuli and social engagement; financial strain from being unable to work; and a lack of access to typical coping strategies such as going to the gym or attending religious services.
Some of us might feel anxiety, depression, stress, fear, boredom, anger, frustration and irritability. Many general facts that were part of our everyday life disappeared in a short time: meeting with our friends and loved ones personally, going to school, work, bars, cinema, theatre but even an everyday grocery shopping is different today. Our bodies and minds need to adjust to this whole situation which might cause problems.
How can we cope with these problems, reduce stress and maintain our balance?
It is important to keep yourself updated about what is happening in the world and your home country but it does not mean that you need to visit news portals every day for hours. Try to read some news for half an hour or even less and after that close the pages you have opened. Stay up to date on what is happening, while limiting your media exposure. Avoid watching or listening to news reports 24/7 since this tends to increase anxiety and worry.
It can help preserve a sense of order and purpose despite the unfamiliarity of isolation and quarantine. Try to include regular daily activities, such as work, exercise or learning, even if they must be executed remotely. It might be an opportunity for trying new pastimes or practice hobbies you did not have time previously though they are a great source of joy and relaxation.
Nowadays, in the world of the internet and social media, it is possible to keep in touch with everyone all around the world unless you have the necessary devices. Messenger, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Instagram and many more platforms provide us with some fun time with our friends and loved ones. It is advisable not to talk much about the coronavirus but something else which makes us all laugh and forget the whole situation for a few hours.
On the other hand, do not forget your family members who are in the same situation as you and can provide you company, help and fun times.
Get enough sleep, eat well and exercise in your home when you are physically capable of doing so. Try to avoid using alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with the stresses of isolation and quarantine.
Examine your worries and aim to be realistic in your assessment of the actual concern as well as your ability to cope. Try not to catastrophise; instead, focus on what you can do and accept the things you can’t change. One way to do this is to keep a daily gratitude journal.
You may also choose to download smartphone applications or visit websites that deliver mindfulness and relaxation exercises.
Create a list of your resources which have helped you in the past to cope with stressful situations. It can be any characteristics, values of yours, favoured activities etc. Any tiny thing matters.
Last but not least, focus on one thing: everyone else who is staying at home might have the same problems you do. You are not alone, and you all help to stop the virus together. This is the only but most effective thing you can do now.