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5 Ways to Stay Calm During the Outbreak


By Katrina Rozga CCC MC (Psych)

As the novel coronavirus continues to be of concern in Hong Kong and around the world, it is important for us all to remain calm and manage our anxiety. Fear and panic only make matters worse, both for individuals and for society.

The coronavirus is a new and unknown health threat. Novel threats can be more frightening than ones we have already encountered because they catch our attention, engage our brains fight-or-flight response, and compel us to act, sometimes unreasonably.

At times like this, it is important to remain both calm and reasonable.

This is especially true for parents. Many children feel anxious and unsure with their daily lives disrupted by school closures and the strange sight of everyone in masks. Parents need to make a special effort to help their kids feel secure, safe and not frightened by health threats.

Here are some tips for managing your anxiety and fear:

1. Reason, Don’t React

Panic is a major problem associated with public health threats. While the virus is legitimately dangerous to some, such as the elderly or immunocompromised, unchecked panic can be worse than the actual illness. Stop and question your natural reflex to panic.

Instead of succumbing to fear, go to trusted sources of information, and don’t put stock in rumours. Listen to your doctor, the World Health Organization, or other reliable sources about the genuine risk and follow their instructions to stay healthy. Many videos and photos being passed around will cause fear and may be inaccurate. Stick to reliable sources for trustworthy and expert information.

2. Limit Media Exposure

If you find yourself reacting negatively to media stories about the virus, consciously limit your exposure to such news. The competition for online viewers has created a content arms race. News providers write ever more spin off stories, replete with clickbait titles and stuffed with hyperbolic terms that only serve to stoke fear and – of course – spur further reading.

Regardless of how you consume news, if it upsets you, log off. Seek information from reputable sources, and consider what information you really need as the outbreak continues. Chances are that between your doctor, your workplace, and your child’s school, you are probably covered.

3. Proper, Reasonable Precautions

Good hygiene habits are the most important steps anyone can take to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Washing your hands with soap and water for twenty seconds, wearing a mask if you are ill, practising good sneeze and cough hygiene, and avoiding crowded places are together excellent precautions to prevent the spread of disease. These measures have been encouraged by the government, health agencies and doctors alike. Staying active, eating a healthy diet, and getting a good amount of sleep are also necessary to keep your immune system functioning optimally.

4. Manage Your Emotions

This is a stressful time for everyone. It is your responsibility to ensure you manage your own emotions. First, check in with how you’re feeling and where your anxiety levels are. It’s easy for them creep up and then you suddenly find yourself in a state of near panic. Check in everyday to manage your emotions consistently.

Next, use coping skills that have worked well in past or learn new ones and teach your family. Mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or deep breathing are all methods that work anywhere. Use self-talk and question your thoughts to ensure they are rational and fact-based. Find time to engage with friends or family members to have conversations. Sometimes getting things out of our heads and into words can help us feel better.

5. Routines are Reassuring

Schools are closed and many offices have implemented work from home steps – it can make maintaining “normal” feel impossible. Try to establish a regular routine, whether it is waking up and having breakfast at the same time each day, having kids do school work during regular school hours, or planning fun family activities in the evening. These can be things like movie nights, making dinner as a family, baking treats, or playing games. Whatever constitutes your normal rhythm of life, try your best to continue doing those things as routine can be calming to both kids and adults.

Are your fear and anxiety levels becoming unmanageable? Contact the BFDC. We can help.