The whole world is currently experiencing an enormous catastrophe due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The global outbreak has claimed over 16,000 lives worldwide and the death toll is rising at an alarming rate, creating more stress and anxiety among the people, particularly those with existing physical and mental health issues.
The virus is challenging our mental health as authorities are repeatedly asking people to go into indefinite isolation, and using words like "quarantine" and "contagion".
In addition, the upcoming economic uncertainty, panic-buying and desperate scrolling on social media platforms for news and updates are also hampering our normal lives and mental well-being.
Chronic anxiety and stress can reduce the power of our immune system, according to an article by Saul McLeod, tutor of Psychology at The University of Manchester.
"When we're stressed, the immune system's ability to fight off antigens is reduced. That is why we are more susceptible to infections. The stress hormone corticosteroid can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system," he wrote.
Stress is linked to headaches, infectious illness like flu, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma and gastric ulcers. Therefore, we need to know how to maintain our mental comfort.
Following are some measures one can follow to limit worry as well as keep your regular activities in pace.
Acknowledge your distress
It is normal to feel distressed at the news of the outbreak, especially if one is already suffering from or has a history of physical or mental health condition.
It is essential to admit these feelings and remind ourselves to look after our physical and mental health.
We should also be aware of and avoid detrimental habits that can be life-threatening in the long run, including smoking, eating unhygienic food and, for some people, drinking alcohol.
It is advisable to keep reassuring those struggling with anxiety and keep contact with people who are living alone.
As anxiety and mental distress get overwhelming, set a fixed time limit for it. It can actually help reduce worrying about the pandemic. To control worrying, it is wise to limit daily news consumption.
Dr Ken Duckworth of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in the United States, says, "If you're losing sleep over what's happening or you're unable to concentrate on anything other than the risk that someone in your life has, you should probably consider [lowering] your dose of media to once a day."
Dr Amir Khan, a National Health Service (NHS) physician and a senior university lecturer in the United Kingdom, wrote in Al Jazeera, "Limit your 'worry time' over COVID-19 to a particular hour of each day and then try not to think about it for the rest of the day. Above all, keep reminding yourself that most people who get COVID-19 will have only mild symptoms and will make a full recovery."
Maintain personal hygiene
Cleanse yourself regularly and wash your hands with soapy water or alcoholic sanitizer. In addition, keep your daily necessary things clean. This may ensure you some extra mental relief. But make sure you limit yourself in cleaning to avoid repetitive habits.
Try to stay connected
We work better in company and with support at times of stress and anxiety. Spend some quality time with your spouse, parents and/or children. Try and keep in touch with your relatives and friends, by phone call, social media or email.
Do some exercise
Exercise is a great anxiety reduction strategy. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), "physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people."
"Exercise may improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress. Research found that those who got regular vigorous exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years."
Any form of exercise can help. You can spend some time in a day jogging, jumping, cycling (if possible), or you can follow Youtube classes on home workouts. Even though you are confined to your home, you can still take a stroll in an open space or on the roof, walk up and down your stairs or even do squats, push-ups, planks and what not!
Engage in productive activities
Make yourself busy with some beneficial activities. You can pass quality time in reading books or doing online courses on topics that interest you the most. You can utilise your time in acquiring any desired hard or soft skill. Keeping your brain occupied with productive tasks may play a significant role in reducing anxiety.
Be optimistic and pray
Optimistic people are happier than those who are depressed all the time. Be optimistic about the end of this ongoing pandemic. The world has experienced innumerable calamities and each of those had its end. Also, pray for the situation to improve. Praying has a good impact on stress management in addition to mental wellbeing.
The author is a freelance blogger and a Mathematics Teacher at Mastermind English Medium School, Dhaka.