Being confronted with this outbreak is perceived as a direct & indirect threat to our safety. The limbic system in our brain is hardwired to notice threats and activate the Fight – Flight – Freeze response. This response prepares our body physically to deal with actual & perceived danger. This is a very useful survival mechanism, but when prolonged activation:
– we become anxious & nervous
– we might have trouble sleeping
– we have decreased access to the rational analytical part of our brain (prefrontal cortex), needed to take a step back, reflect and make logical decisions.
– We are more focused on our own needs and we become less capable to be sensitive to the needs of others. This might be perceived as egocentricity and a lack of empathy. These reactions are automatic & mostly unconscious. Feeling stressed & concerned is actually very normal in this situation. Managing your stress & wellbeing during this time is as important as managing your physical health. The following recommendations are specific actions you can take to regulate & manage your stress response.
How to be well informed without feeling overwhelmed
Be well informed about the virus and preventive measures
Only use trustworthy sources of information
Reduce the number of times per day you check the news.
Limit your exposure to media that make you feel anxious. Choose your media according to the level of exposure you want. Privilege reading article (from reliable sources) than watching news on TV to reduce the emotional contamination.
Limit your exposure to rumors that are not coming from reliable sources
Also pay attention to positive elements in the news about the outbreak (how many people healed, decrease of new cases in some countries, …)
How to restore your sense of control
Accept what you cannot change and focus on what you can control:
– Remind yourself of what you do not have under your control
The length of this health crisis
The actions & reactions of others
Whether or not others comply with the protective measures
What will happen in the future
The financial impact of this crisis
The impact on the schools
– Remind yourself of what is your field of possible action
Your positive attitude
Your life style & hygiene
Your social distancing
Respecting the preventive measures
Sharing the information on prevention to others
The amount of information you search
How many times you check the news per day
How you communicate with others
Self-care & managing the stress response
Take care of your basic needs: Be sure to eat, drink and sleep regularly. Becoming biologically deprived puts you at risk to be more vulnerable to diseases and may also compromise your ability to be fully operational.
Take breaks: give yourself a rest from working & try limiting overwork as much as possible.
Disconnect yourself from COVID-19 information/work by keeping time to nourish your personal life.
Recharge your batteries. Try to do activities that makes you feel good. Use your creativity to find new activities, adapted to your current situation; reading, watching movies, doing sports in your living room, knitting, cooking, watching funny video’s, … Find reasons to laugh & have fun.
Practice gratitude: every day at the end of the day, think of 3 things that you can be grateful for
Be mindful not to use unhealthy strategies to deal with your stress. Avoid increase in alcohol, smoking, eating unhealthy food, … Even though this is a new situation, try using healthy ways of dealing with stress that have helped you get through past difficulties.
Self check-in: monitor yourself over time for any stress signs that might indicate you are too tired, too stressed or feeling down. Talk to someone you trust or seek psychosocial support if needed; contact your staff health responsible.
How to stay connected in times of social distancing
Stay (virtually) connected to your friends & family.
Do not always talk about the pandemic, talk about other subjects too.
Support each other as much as possible; check proactively how you can help each other. Share your experiences and your tips.
Reach out to people who you know might be isolated.
Respect people’s differences in their need to connect. Some people prefer solitude when dealing with difficult emotions.
How to make sense of the situation
Try not to focus on the losses and lack you are experiencing (lack of freedom, lack of contact,..), rather on the positive things that are also happening (e.g. more solidarity, having someone contacting you…) and your personal accomplishment.
Acceptance is key in being able to make sense of a difficult situation.
Remind yourself of why we have to adhere to preventive measures:
– To protect ourselves and others
– To contribute to stop the pandemic
– To take care of our community & society
Try reframing the situation:
– What could we learn from this?
– Could this be an opportunity to grow?
– Could this be an opportunity to practice personal and communal resilience?