Are you also curious how the year 2020 will go into history? It will probably take a while before we can really determine whether the global Corona pandemic has been properly addressed. Facts and opinions are intertwined, there are insights and advice that contradict each other. Conspiracy theories are circulating, we get updates on the number of infections every day and we are made to believe to adapt to the “new normal”. For how much longer? And what follows next? A person would go crazy from less uncertainty.
So how do we stay mentally healthy in these uncertain times?
1. Take control of things you can influence.
We have no control over the measures taken or to be taken and nobody knows what to expect next. That's true. That is precisely why it is important to continue to focus on what we CAN do for ourselves, where we DO have control over. Part of this is psychological (the glass is half full), and in part we can also use that in a practical way:
- Organise the day, plan your activities and stick to the plan.
- Maintain a normal day and night rhythm and maintain a routine. Get up and sleep at set times.
- Have a healthy lifestyle (eat healthy, be moderate with alcohol, preferably do not use any drugs).
- Stay active.
2. Take care of yourself (and others): move and relax.
Stress and anxiety normally help us to intervene quickly in the event of danger and to respond appropriately. But now the danger is invisible and the uncertainty is great. Our stress hormones are increasing, to adapt becomes difficult. Stress Symptoms take the upper hand. Anxiety can strengthen physical and psychological complaints and may negatively influence our behavior and affect our immune system.
We sleep worse, get a higher blood pressure, become gloomy or cynical, find it more difficult to concentrate, worry a lot, show a short fuse. We do not only separate ourselves from the outside world as the measures impose on us, but also from each other. It is all the more important to (continue to) take good care of yourself!
To some, it may feel like "doing nothing" but know that, by doing this, you are actually working hard to lower the elevated stress hormones!:
- Keep moving and do sport (preferably in the open air).
- Practice your hobby or take up a new one.
- Take time to relax, eg through yoga, mindfulness, meditation.
- Stay connected with your loved ones. By continuing to communicate, supporting and helping each other, you get positive energy. If you can't visit them, use social media, call more often or just send a message every now and then.
- “It is better to have a good neighbour than a distant friend”: support each other. See what is possible, taking into account the restrictions. Help that elderly neighbour with his groceries, have a chat with that lonely neighbour, go for a walk with a group of neighbours.
3. Be aware of the NOCEBO effect
In other words, how negative thinking can make you sick. In this time of Corona we are daily confronted with figures about hospital admissions, death tolls, fear of infections or economic disaster scenarios; these come into the picture much more prominently than the attention to solidarity and resilience in society. From an evolutionary perspective, we give priority to this negative information and we remember negative information much better than positive information. This effect can increase the dreaded symptoms and complaints, according to the principle “you get what you expect”.
Therefore: make clever use of news and media. Following the news many hours a day can actually cause anxiety and complaints! Therefore, try to follow a reliable source of information no more than twice a day.
In conclusion: it is very normal to feel insecure, anxious and tired during this Corona period. Our daily structure and routines have changed and the future is uncertain for everyone. All of this demands a lot from our resilience and that takes energy. Recognising and acknowledging this is important because sometimes you can just sit through it for a while. And that is quite normal. If you are unable to regain control or calm the stress (with the above tips), a talk with a psychologist may help you.