It's no secret that the world has changed a little in the past few weeks. The markets are crashing, sports are cancelled, you can't go to Lululemon anymore to pretend like you're ready to start working out again - it's changed, drastically. And according to experts, we're not even close to the end.
In times of extreme uncertainty, being concerned about all of the news out there is completely understandable. For many, unfortunately, it can make existing mental health problems even worse.
"A lot of anxiety is rooted in worrying about the unknown and waiting for something to happen - coronavirus is that on a microscale" (BBC). It is so important that we take the appropriate measures to protect ourselves mentally, so that we are able to protect ourselves and our families from what's ahead of us.
The World Health Organization published a document that offers some great recommendations for dealing with stress and anxiety during the outbreak. Here are a few that I'll be practicing over the next few weeks:
1) Avoid watching, reading or listening to news that could cause you to feel anxious or distressed
2) Seek information mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones
3) See information updates at specific times during the day once or twice. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried
If I'm being honest with myself, I've had a lot of trouble restraining myself from "being in the know" since all of this began. Since last Thursday, I've planned my days around press conferences (not just Canadian ones), refreshed my twitter feed once every few minutes and kept the news on in the background while I work from home. I think it's because at a time like this when so many things are out of my control, the one thing I can really have a hold of is how much I know and how soon I can know it.
The problem is that it's only been a few days of this... and as much as I want to say everything's great and cool and normal, it's not. I find myself becoming more and more worried about my family, friends and literally everyone with every new tweet I read, and there's honestly so much conflicting information out there that I don't even know what to believe anymore. I've done my best to play the role of being the rational and logical one in conversations but I know if I continue down this path of living on the news channel, I'll slowly lose that ability.
Look, these recommendations made by WHO are great. I've put them into practice today and I can honestly say it feels like a load has been taken off my shoulders. I don't plan on shutting myself off from the news or recommendations made by public health officials, because that'd just be ignorant. My goal however is to take a small step back from the news; take breaks from social media when it gets triggering and overwhelming; stay connected with my friends and family; and of course, check in with myself every now and then to see if I need anything. I'm not saying it's a perfect plan, but it's worth a try, right?
Thank you for your time, always appreciated.
So on another note... (I'll do my best to be as politically correct as possible lol) I want to finish off this post with a related, but un-related request of everyone reading this. As a member of our global community, we all have a certain level of influence over the people around us because of this powerful tool called social media. I don't think it's a reach to say that this influence is extremely, extremely powerful - especially at a time like this where there are conflicting "facts" being spread everywhere and there's so much fear and uncertainty around us. Not to be cliché, but with any form of power comes great responsibility. It is extremely irresponsible to spread ideas on your social media that conflict with those of Public Health Officials and Doctors who are the most qualified to give advice on how to navigate the COVID-19 Pandemic. It is extremely ignorant to downplay what is happening around us and tell your followers to continue going out for dinner and hanging out with friends in public areas, when we've been told time and time again to practice social distancing and not leave our houses. The World Health Organization framed it best when they said that it's better to look back on this time and say you overreacted than to look back and wish you did more.
Stay safe and SPREAD LOVE, NOT GERMS.
Written by: Naim Jutha, NVSN.