As the coronavirus continues to spread around the world, so do fears about how this will impact our daily lives. So much is unknown about this disease, and this uncertainty is causing stress and anguish for many.
But you don't have to succumb to your fears. Ken Yeager, director of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience Program at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center, and Maryanna Klatt, a family medicine professor at the College of Medicine and an expert in mindfulness, offer these tips to ground yourself in reality and make it through these stressful times.
Trust that our public health officials are acting in our best interest and will do all that they can to protect us.
Seek accurate information from trusted experts. But don’t overexpose yourself to too much information. Try not to engage in stories or conversations where people may tend to embellish information they’ve taken in about the virus.
Weigh information in relation to the national picture.
Think about where things are happening in the United States. Think about your family and loved ones. Are any of them at risk? Pay attention to how YOU are perceiving the information.
Reach out to family and friends.
Openly acknowledge your concerns. Understand the reality that the virus is rapidly spreading and likely will come to your state eventually.
Understand the local perspective.
Keep yourself aware of local efforts to avoid the spread of the illness. Understand there’ll be policies and procedures put in place for your city and state. It might be beneficial to have advance discussions with your employer to understand what their plan of action will be. Likely their decisions will impact your plans of action.
Monitor the virus.
Understand where it is and choose your best next steps to manage the uncertainty. For example, buying supplies, cleaning your house, disinfecting shopping carts when you pick them up at the store, frequently washing your hands and not touching your face with your hands are all choices you can make. These are all actions that are within your ability to manage. You may choose to limit your travel, and to visit with friends and family in smaller groups, perhaps meeting at each other’s homes rather than in public restaurants as you normally would.
Remember that we’re all in this together.
Everyone will be in the same situation. Do your best to prevent the spread of germs by washing your hands frequently and coughing or sneezing into your sleeve. Don’t become obsessed with what MIGHT happen. As disruption in our daily lives may become a reality, seek feedback from trusted family and peers to think about how they plan to cope, what their next moves will be.
Reframe your thinking.
Instead of thinking of the negative aspects of disruption — such as large public events being canceled or schools shutting down — reframe your thinking to see opportunities. If your children’s school shuts down, you have more time with your children. Consider who you could partner with if you have to go to work and your children aren’t in school. Remember that you problem solve all day every day when you have children.
Understand the ways you can protect yourself...
...without feeling isolated and alone. In a day where we have more communication options than ever before, you can make good choices and make smart decisions by remaining grounded in the reality of the situation.
Recognize that this situation IS stressful.
It’s something we haven’t faced as a nation before. Don’t judge your fear — just acknowledge it and make a list of everything possible you can do to make yourself less fearful. Believe that we can cope with these things as they arise. Obsessive fear does nothing to help the situation.