COVID-19 Pandemic Making You Anxious? Ateneo Psychologist Gives Us Advice
On March 11, COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). The Philippines has since been put under Code Red Sublevel 2 and class suspensions as well as community quarantines have been enforced in Metro Manila for 30 days.
While we take all measures to protect ourselves from the virus, there's also another thing that might be crucial even in a health crisis like the global COVID-19 situation: our mental health. Many of us might be experiencing anxiety or worry over the situation without even realizing how severe these feelings are becoming and how serious their impact is on how we go about our everyday lives and how we respond in times of crises.
We talked to Dr. Karina Galang Fernandez, Executive Director of Ateneo Bulatao Center, about how to manage fear and panic during cases like the COVID-19 pandemic.
How to know if our actions are already signs of panic
Dr. Fernandez points out the familiar, more common expressions of panic like: becoming more hyperactive than usual, being very restless, or doing lots of big movements. However, she also points out, “We have to realize that while these are the common manifestations, we also have to understand that the stress from this and other problematic situations might also manifest in the totally opposite way.” Being more quiet or withdrawn and isolating yourself are also signs to watch out for.
At the end of day, Dr. Fernandez emphasizes that we should observe any significant changes in our usual habits. “Are we noticing changes in their everyday behavior and how they usually respond to different stimuli? We want to watch out for certain changes in behavior and emotional state.”
How to stay level-headed when you’re stuck at home
Given the extended class suspension, community quarantine, and social distancing measures imposed in Metro Manila in response to the community transmission of COVID-19, individuals are highly encouraged to stay at home. Having limited exposure to what has been happening outside our homes aside from what we see or read from media outlets and on the Internet, many may feel helpless or uneasy.
Dr. Fernandez advises that maintaining certain parts of your routines as much as possible will help ease your feelings of restlessness and give you a sense of control in situations we cannot regulate. “What’s good in a way is that students are still required to do work, so we have online assessment and online lectures,” she says. “Trying to still have some semblance of your everyday life is good. Having a sort of routine, a sense of productivity, can really help you contain any sense of panic or distress because your mind is still focused on things you can do and can control.”
How to manage feelings of anxiety or panic
Dr. Fernandez shares a few guidelines on managing our fears and anxieties in times like this:
- Take a breath. Practicing breathing exercises helps us calm down.
- Limit your daily news intake. To avoid being overwhelmed, don’t listen to or read the news all the time. Choose a certain period in the day when you look up news updates instead of constantly refreshing your feeds.
- More importantly, choose where you get your news—refer to media news outlets instead of reading every Viber and Facebook message that comes out that’s not connected to credible sources.
- If you start to feel overwhelmed, shift your attention to something else, like listening to music or watching your favorite YouTubers’ vlogs. Dr. Fernandez advises, “If you like or enjoy a certain hobby, engage in those. It’s really about not drowning yourself with information that would only make your feelings worse.”
- Find a support system. Fernandez says, “If you notice yourself spiraling, call someone, text someone, Messenger someone, because we know that with any kind of stress, talking to someone is helpful.”
How to handle other people’s feelings of anxiety or panic
Managing our own stress is one thing, but in cases like the COVID-19 pandemic, we aren’t the only ones who may be feeling stressed or panicked by the situation. The people close to us—our parents, siblings, friends—may also be under a similar sense of distress.
If any of your family members express feelings of fear or anxiety, Dr. Fernandez’ first advice is to exercise compassion. “We know that empathy can be very, very helpful. Allow them to bring it out. Validate, respect, and empathize with what they are thinking. Share with them the tips mentioned above.”
For younger children, Dr. Fernandez says that affirming the correct actions will help. “For younger children, validate what they’re doing right, like washing their hands and staying at home.”
For our parents, Dr. Fernandez says that, “a lot of patience is important. Contradicting them or raising your voice to them will only agitate them further.”
Instead, maybe having an exchange of ideas with them might help. “Discuss with them, ‘What else pa kaya can we do, mom?’ or ‘How did you handle stress before? What helped you handle them?’ Trying to bring up other stories of when they were able to rise of to adversity or how they managed and remained resilient in the past can also be helpful.”
While empathy is very important (Wouldn’t you want someone else to identify with and validate your concerns as well?), we are not obligated to manage someone else’s distress if we are not in a proper disposition to help. If you feel that you are unable to aid someone else handle their worries, Dr. Fernandez’ advice is to respectfully inform them without being dismissive of their worries. “You can say, ‘I’m hearing your worries about this; I’m also panicking in my own internal state.’ I think rather than brush them off immediately, allow them to say it for a while and echo their thoughts.”
At the end of the day, Dr. Fernandez emphasizes the importance of caring for our mental health, even during a crisis that predominantly affects physical health. For her last piece of advice, Dr. Fernandez says, “By taking care of your mental health, you become more physically resilient; your psychological well-being can affect your physical well-being.”
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19 year old pharmacy student-businesswoman from Pampanga. I, Kimberly Chaile D. Ocampo, started planning my own business back when I was 18 years old. Despite being a student, that did not stop me to work and start up something for me to earn my own money. I was also influenced by my parents who are both hands on when it comes to the marketing world. I have decided to start my own mini restaurant/fast food restaurant recently (Feb 2020) and it was named as “Hungry Hubb”. From the word itself which is “Hungry” we thought of something that would give people the biggest hint that we sell food.
Because of the sudden quarantine, every store was forced to close for our own safety that is why there was a sudden decrease on our sales. But Hungry Hubb managed to survive by focusing on online selling and social media promotion. Our best seller would be Shawarma salad which is mediterranean style. We add authentic Garlic sauce to our shawarma (Which is available in Wrap, Salad, & Rice). Every product that we sell are very affordable and delicious. Our starting price is only 50php. (Shawarma Wrap). For Shawarma Salad (70php). We also have Milktea (60php) and Rice meals such as Lechon Kawali, Chicken barbecue, and Pork Barbecue for only 120 pesos.
And of course, I wouldn’t make it up this far without the help of my family and friends who have supported be from the very start. This is an open letter and inspirational especially to students that want to earn their own money. Nothing is impossible. You just have to be determined enough to turn your plans into reality.
Hello everyone! I would like to introduce my little passion project I started exactly a month ago — VITAP0PS is my small indie art shop giving you a clean, minimal and vintage ~vibe~ stuff. It will really mean a lot to me if we can connect through my art. Bonus if you're into Hiligaynon slangs. I'll see you there! site: msha.ke/shovitap0ps instagram/pinterest: shopvitap0ps artist: vitap0ps
Hello, I'm Isabel and I'm a foodie from the South. I love trying out new dishes and pastries in the Metro while I ask myself if it's worth the hype. During this pandemic, I've decided to keep my foodie dreams alive by supporting my friends and small food businesses.
Aside from ordering from them, I've also created my own food blog via Instagram to express my thoughts and positive reviews about them to somehow help spread the word of their food and how other people should try it. At the end of the day, we are all helping one another through this difficult time by having multiple coping mechanisms - others to cook or bake while I write a review about what I eat.
Check out my food blog on Instagram @perdiviews and feel free to send me a message so I can collaborate with you soon!
It's not making sense. Maybe, it is. Everything is so blurry and vague. You can't seem to fathom what's happening. You're lost and searching- searching for the meaning behind what ifs and what could have beens. But life, we give meaning to life as if it's a beautiful paradise. Indeed it is.
But why we feel so gloomy, so empty? It seems like no light is passing through our soul. We're wounded. Hoping for healing. That's because, we're living. We celebrate life but we also fight for it. You feel all the pain, because you're living. You're not just alive, you're living. You can make it through all the storm and darkness. Wishing you well, Marj.