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Keeping yourself safe during the Coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus or COVID-19: two words which have been dominating our newsfeeds, social media, workplace communications and general conversations since December 2019. While there is a need for vital, reliable information to be cascaded, many social media sites are retorting information for information’s sake, choosing to scaremonger or panic their viewers. While some find ease in disconnecting, for others the relentless media bashing about the virus is experienced as overwhelming and even suffocating.

The outbreak of the virus has generated uncertainty, feelings of loss of control and generous amounts of worry, which fuel and enable anxiety to flourish. In such challenging times it can be easy for fear and panic to grow and grow. However, what we can do is consciously empower ourselves to take back control in any way we can, which includes taking care of our mental health.

How to regain a sense of control

“There’s a fine line between informed and overload. Please mind your mind too” – Sarah Crosby, Psychotherapist.

  • Review your notification settings
    Are notifications and media access causing you to feel anxious or distressed? If so, consider whether you can disengage from panic-inducing modalities. Site features such as the ability to mute hashtags on Twitter may be beneficial.
  • Only access information from reliable sources and limit your engagement
    Contemplate what websites, sites, clickbait and apps you are accessing. Consume information from official sources such as the NHS and Public Health England. Consider which newspapers you are accessing for information: remember, newspapers and magazines choose headlines which sell. The language they use is tailored to capture attention, not necessarily considering the feelings and emotions evoked by its readers.

“News tends to be behind paywalls, while fake news is free” – Professor Jonathan Quick (Duke University), former chair of the Global Health Council.

  • ‘Ask before analysing’
    With the subject of Coronavirus being here there and everywhere, many of us will find ourselves talking to friends, families and co-workers about it. However, it is hard to know how they are feeling about the situation prior to this and whether talking about it will in fact be challenging for them, triggering further anxiety. Before you start a conversation, check in with the person you are conversing with – are they comfortable with having a discussion?
  • Set your own boundaries
    Think about your own needs and serve yourself first. Share your own boundaries around the subject if you’re finding it hard to listen to. Imagine a glass, being half full. That half could be your worries and fears. If you’re adding more liquid to your cup in the form of other people’s worries and fears, it won’t be long until that glass overflows.
  • Consider the ‘Apple’ technique (Anxiety UK)
    • Acknowledge: your uncertainty as it comes to mind
    • Pause: try not to react. Pause and breathe.
    • Pull back: tell yourself this is the worry talking. The apparent need for certainty is not helpful. Acknowledge it as a thought or a feeling. Remind yourself thoughts are not statements or facts.
    • Let go: of the thought or feeling. Acknowledge it will pass; you could even imagine the thought floating away in a bubble.
    • Explore: explore the present moment. Notice the sensation of your breathing, the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can smell and what you can touch. Be in the moment. Then, when you feel ready, try and shift your focus of attention to something new.

How to spread cheer

“May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears” – Nelson Mandela.

  • Stay connected to friends and family
    When we feel disempowered and lost, our friends and family can be the pillars of support we need. Keep in touch, even if it is via telephone call or video call. Writing a letter to a loved one or sending a postcard can be another medium to explore, especially if your loved one is in isolation.
  • Think of what you can do to support those who are more vulnerable
    Consider older people in your community who may not be online or those with pre-existing conditions. If you feel able and well you could consider offering your help with activities that may be trickier, such as going and getting groceries. Alternatively, if you know someone is in isolation, you could offer to be a friendly person to speak to over the phone.
  • Take comfort and ideas from helpful resources

“If you feel overwhelmed by the fragility of it all, and how everything could change whether or not you have a say, I hope you know you are not alone in feeling this way. You are allowed to have questions. You are allowed to wonder why. You are allowed to need peace at morning, 2pm and midnight. Take a deep breath whenever you can. May the exhale give you the smallest, sweet release amidst all you do not understand” – Morgan Harper Nichols.

  • Take comfort in the normality of routines
    See your working day as an opportunity to give your mind a rest from the chaos and focus on your usual working routine.
  • Get creative!
    Think of things you can do during your spare time to distract your mind. Scrapbooking, baking, creating a playlist, journaling, painting, sewing, colouring – these are all activities that require our focus and can be the perfect escape. You can keep your creations for yourself or share them with people around you.

Working from home

For some people, working from home won’t be a novelty. For others however, an enforced period of isolation can seem ominous. How can we ensure working from home is a positive, productive experience?

There are a plethora of accessible workouts and classes online, including apps such as Boxx or Fiit which provide you with online access to workout videos.

  • Dress for work, or at least change out of your pyjamas! Starting your day as typically as possible will help you centre and focus for the day ahead.
  • Pick up the phone or video call people on Teams rather than communicating via email to ensure you are part of verbal or face-to-face contact.

As a team, we understand these are difficult times. It can feel hard to know where to begin in terms of trying to take back some form of control, or when confronted with trying to calm our filled to the brim minds. As always, start small. Find something achievable that works for you and become part of your day-to-day. Go from there. Take comfort in knowing that we are all in this together; as an organisation, as colleagues and as friends.

“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today”– Thich Nhat Hanh

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