of COVID- 19
the Psychological stress
of COVID- 19
Share This article:
Table of Contents
While governments around the world are imposing lockdowns and quarantine measures to reduce the spread of COVID – 19, the psychosocial impact society is facing by these initiatives is being overlooked, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Daily low-wage earners in these countries make up over half of the population. Robbed of their means of income by COVID – 19, these earners fear hunger, homelessness and destitution more than they fear getting infected by COVID – 19. Feelings of fear, stress, anxiety, and loneliness, all caused by financial loss and a lack of basic needs like food and water, are being reported by societies all around the world. Aside from financial help from governments, furlough payments from employers and voluntary contributions from individuals, addressing the psychosocial and mental health impact caused by the current outbreak is fundamental in ensuring the livelihood of the society. Despite the huge burden of mental illness in low- and middle-income countries, there are very little human and financial resources directed towards mental health care, leaving societies to cope with psychosocial stressors on their own.
Below are some tips to help you and your family decrease stress and adjust emotionally while staring healthy.
Effective coping strategies
Creating a blame free environment.
The first step in coping with the emotions caused by the COVID-19 conditions is to recognize that you are not to blame for your current situation. Whether it is the loss of your job, the fact that your elderly parent with a chronic health condition refuses to understand the need to minimize human contact, or the fact that your kids are getting anxious from being confined in the house all day, you are not to blame. Dr. Harriet Lerner, a psychologist and author, suggests that while it is normal to feel overwhelmed, labeling ourselves as “weak” or comparing ourselves to others can only aggravate our situation.
Expressing your feelings.
Whether it is a neighbor, a co-worker, or a member of your child’s school’s parents committee, it is more than likely that you share at least one common situational stressor with someone else. Affected by a common enemy, COVID – 19, this is the right time to turn towards each other and ask for help and guidance. Perhaps your neighbor has figured out how to keep his children occupied, your co-worker heard of a social benefit package offered by the government for which you are eligible to apply, or maybe a member of the parents committee found an effective way to help children cope with the outbreak, learning from one another is a good way to resolve problems that are causing stress during this outbreak. By seeking out social support from your loved ones and closest friends not only do you keep in touch with people around you but you also help others cope. You don’t have to fix their problems. Being there for them and letting them know that you are in this together can go a long way.
Helping your family understand the pandemic
Speaking with your elderly parents
Most parents, especially African parents, have a difficult time listening to their children’s words of caution about COVID-19. Many African parents hold the belief that children are there to take instructions, but not give them. Because most African culture believes that wisdom comes with age, it is assumed that an elder’s knowledge and experiences make them better decision makers than their children. Have your elderly parents speak with someone their age (or a religious leader) about why it is of the utmost importance to follow the rules on preventing the spread of COVID – 19.
Speaking with your children
Depending of your child’s age, use words that they can understand to provide facts and details about COVID -19. Speak to them in a simple, clear and reassuring manner using appropriate and accurate terminology. Start by asking what they know and how they feel about the current situation. Let them lead the discussion since too much information can create anxiety. Acknowledge their fear. Be honest.
Here is an example of how to explain COVID -19 to young children by Linda Hatfield, a parent-education coach.
“The coronavirus is a type of germ. These germs are very, very tiny, and when they get inside your body, they can make you sick. The germs get in your body through your nose, mouth or eyes. When someone coughs and touches a doorknob, and then you touch the doorknob, those germs might get into your body. It’s helpful to wash our hands a lot and try to stay away from big crowds.”
Another way to explain the COVID – 19 situation to very young children is through story telling. For COVID – 19 story books, click here.
A third way is through education videos. BrainPOP has a great short video for young children to watch. Check it out here.
Here is another child friendly video on COVID – 19 that you could also use.
UNICEF (https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/how-talk-your-child-about-coronavirus-covid-19) suggests the following steps on how to talk to your children about the DISEASE:
Having a healthy way of Life amid the covid - 19 outbreak
It is highly beneficial for yourself and everyone around you to maintain a healthy lifestyle during confinement. Doing so helps to keep your immune system strong and your emotional reserve full.
Keeping a Healthy Life Style includes:
Sticking to a routine
Take care of yourself and your body by sticking to a daily routine. If you do not have a daily routine set up, the following steps can be used to establish a routine:
Plan your day/week
Think about what you would like to do in a day and what percentage of your time you would like to dedicate to it.
Make sure to incorporate a variety of activities into your family daily routine to avoid everyday monotony. Reading, watching TV, exercising, completing social media challenges, doing deep breathing exercises, relaxing, and engaging or developing new hobbies are a few activities you can incorporate into your daily routine. For some inspiration for indoor activities that you can do with your family visit this site.
This period of confinement is a good opportunity to do things that you might have been putting off. Whether it is making a phone call that has been long overdue, fixing something in the house, thoroughly cleaning your home, getting enough sleep, researching your dream job, spending time with your kids, doing something for your future, or just going back to what you consider essential, this confinement period presents a good opportunity to do it
Children need routine and predictability in order to feel safe. Make sure to include them in your weekly planning and align your plans to theirs.
If you are working remotely from home during this crisis, having your children work on their academics at the same time you are doing office work can be very effective.
It is also recommended that you maintain the same set time and routine for sleeping, bathing and eating.
Layout a plan – Create a chart with everyone’s weekly plans. Making new charts every week allows for flexibility and new activities can be included as time goes by.
Set small GOALS
Don’t overwhelm yourself and your loved ones with an overloaded schedule that includes overly ambitious goals. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Break each large goal into smaller ones that are more attainable. Have your children focus on their schoolwork in reasonable increments.
Be consistent with time.
Plan your activities to make the best use of your time, making sure to keep track of time while completing these activities. Finishing your tasks first thing in the morning before losing motivation allows you to enjoy the benefits all day. If you have younger kids, schedule your work-related activities during their nap time and all physical activities while they are awake.
Set different space for different activities
Whether you live in a villa or a one-bedroom apartment divide your living space into different sections for the different activities scheduled on your daily routine. For instance, reserve your bed or bedroom for sleeping and your dining table for working.
Relax, Refresh and Recharge. Taking small frequent breaks recharges the brain making your work more effective. Breaks can be used to do a variety of activities including using technology, whether it be over the phone or through a virtual face to face call, to stay in touch with loved ones.
Track your progress
At the end of each day, make sure to go back to your calendar and cross off completed tasks. The simple act of crossing off items on your to-do list can help make you feel more accomplished.
Self – rewarding is key to keep you motivated during this period of confinement.
Limit the time you and your family spend listening to the news
Media outlets, as well as social media, can become extremely overwhelming regarding COVID – 19 information. While it is very important to stay-up-to date with the latest news on the outbreak, make sure to only listen to trusted sources. To minimize the risk of being miss-informed with “fake news,” we recommend following WHO’s coronavirus situation reports and messages broadcasted by your national authority.