How to Stay Emotionally Healthy During the Coronavirus Outbreak
Proven techniques for managing stress and anxiety over the outbreak.
Posted March 3, 2020 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan
By Margot Starbuck
The World Health Organization has coached us about how to avoid contracting and spreading the coronavirus to stay physically healthy. But what about attending to our mental health in the midst of the current outbreak? How do we stay emotionally healthy when many around us are fearful?
Today I am scheduled to drop my 21-year-old daughter at the airport to embark on a two-week trip through a number of European countries. To date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not issued travel warnings for any of her destinations. Should she choose to travel over her spring break voyage this evening, a lot of us who love her will need tools to manage our own stress and anxiety about the coronavirus.
Here are some strategies that I’ve been using that may help you, too.
Pay Attention to Your Body and Your Emotions
It’s natural to experience stress and anxiety in the face of a threat we cannot control. Because every person reacts differently, notice what your body and emotions are telling you:
- Listen to your emotions, noticing any anxiety, sadness, anger, or detachment.
- Listen to your body, noticing any change in appetite, new aches and pains, or feeling particularly hot or cool.
- When you notice troubling symptoms, pause to care for your body and mind. If you become unable to manage or function well, seek the assistance of a professional.
Embrace Best Health Practices
Though there’s much about the coronavirus outbreak over which you have no control, you can choose to embrace the kinds of practices that will keep you and your loved ones safe. The CDC suggests:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Access Reliable Resources
You can choose how you will receive and consume information about the outbreak. If you rely on panicked phone calls from your anxious loved ones, you’re likely to suffer more than if you choose to rely on credible sources. Two reliable sources for health news include the CDC and the World Health Organization.
If you become consumed by breaking news about the spread of the coronavirus, you can also choose to step away from media reports for a time. At the same time, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the news or compulsively checking the news, then you need to take a break and set limits for yourself.
Share Reliable Information
Another way to care for yourself is to care for others by sharing the best information you’ve discovered.
When you find a reputable resource that’s particularly helpful, share it with a loved one. When you learn about practices that keep people safe, let a relative who is vulnerable to illness know. In a culture where people are feeling anxious, you can be a gift to others.
In the midst of a stressful season or situation, many self-care practices are the same ones that prove helpful in everyday living:
- Maintain your normal routines.
- Connect with family and friends.
- Eat well and stay active.
- Get adequate rest.
- Do enjoyable activities; and
- Employ coping skills that nurture your spirit, like mindfulness exercises or prayer.
While it feels like there is a lot we can’t control amidst concerns over the coronavirus, every one of us can make choices to stay emotionally healthy. I know I will.
Margot Starbuck is an award-winning writer and speaker, as well as the mother of three humans, by birth and adoption. She’s the author of Small Things With Great Love: Adventures in Loving Your Neighbor.