We’re not doctors. There is enough authoritative information online on how to survive COVID-19 — wash your hands like your life depends on it (because it probably does), wear surgical masks (not those silly fashion masks, please!) and keep a social distance.
But what about your mental health? What about not losing your mind from cabin fever? What about staying positive when there is such an unbelievable torrent of bad news coming our way every day?
Well, that’s what this article is about: How to survive this madness — and maybe even come out the other side stronger.
1. Stop reading or listening to the news
Author Rolf Dobelli once wrote about how the news is bad for you. In his book, The Art of Thinking Clearly: Better Thinking, Better Decisions, he said that he had gone four years without reading any news and “I can see, feel and report the effects of this freedom first-hand: less disruption, less anxiety, deeper thinking, more time, more insights. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.”
The book covers various toxic effects of news consumption, including that the news can act as a drug, waste time, lead to passivity, and kill creativity.
This fact was corroborated by CBC’s medical contributor Dr. Peter Lin who explained in 2016 that a constant stream of bad news results in sensations of shock and sadness for the people in the news story, but that these emotions quickly turn towards oneself.
Coronavirus brought with it a torrent of negative news unlike any other. News sites saw a surge of over 130 million visits in the first two weeks of March 2020. Soon after that, articles started appearing online which informed people about the need to “disconnect” and “take a break”.
One tip is to designate a “news person” in your household. If there is anything urgent you need to know about, they could tell you.
2. Go outside
Find a way to go outside. Even if it’s just to step out into your balcony. If you really can’t do it, stick your head out the window for ten minutes a day!
Numerous studies have been conducted, showing the health benefits of going outside. Not only is a “breath of fresh air” good for your body, but it’s also good for your state of mind.
3. Take a COVID-19 home test for your own peace of mind
Go ahead and order a COVID-19 home testing kit for your own peace of mind.
We’ve been fed such a deluge of bad news that some people just need to know that they aren’t positive, or that they haven’t had it, to set their minds at ease.
New tests are always being developed, but the most common ones are the PCR “swab” test and the antibody-test. The PCR test lets you know if you currently have COVID-19 and is considered the most sensitive of tests to detect a current infection.
PCR tests are the ones that the NHS uses when testing for active COVID-19 infections.
The second test is an antibody test. This test determines if a person has had COVID-19 sometime in the recent past — at least 5 to 7 weeks before the time of testing.
Now, as lockdowns start emerging again across the UK, it is vital to set your mind at ease so that you can settle into your home and take a breather, knowing you are not infected and that you will not be a risk for others.
4. Find a way to talk face to face
Not Zoom. No Facetime. People need human interaction — real human interaction.
But how is that possible with regulations getting stricter in the thick of lockdown?
Find a neighbour who lives across the street and shout hello to them. Talk at the top of your lungs if you have to. Humans are social creatures, and to take our ability to socialise away from us is no short of condemning us to a prison sentence for a crime we didn’t commit.
Stop serving that sentence by finding a way to talk to a real human being.
In the worst case, you could look at someone from your window and talk to them on the phone. But get that real face-to-face interaction going again.
5. Get away from your computer, TV, and phone
Too much time in front of a screen can be bad for your health, leading to eye-strain, blurred vision, headaches, neck, and back pain.
As if we didn’t already have enough problems!
And then there’s the matter of that news feed and news website being just a click away; an email away; a social media notification away.
You need to take a time-out from these devices. Pull out a paperback book (yes, those still exist!) and read it for an hour a night. Have some quiet time where you can get away from the noise and madness and sadness and just breathe.
Smile. No matter how bad things look, always force yourself to smile about something at least once a day. Because that’s also good for your health.
Written by Abbas Ali.