13th March 2020
Coronavirus anxiety is sweeping the nation, earlier this week the World Health Organization issued guidelines for protecting mental health during the outbreak, suggesting that the near-constant stream of news reports about the outbreak are leading to increased anxiety and mental health worries.
Psychotherapist Noel McDermott comments: “Many people are being affected by fear and anxiety at this time and this can make us more ill and less effective at making good decisions. Stress is linked to ill health and reduction in immune functioning, so being able to manage your stress responses will have direct health benefits.”
How to Manage Your Children’s Concerns About Covid-19
One of the most vulnerable groups to high anxiety are children and during times of high anxiety your children may become ‘clingier’, we call it attachment need. This is normal and it’s ok to meet these needs, in fact be proactive and give them even more hugs than usual. Let them communicate their difficult feelings in a non-judgemental way. Simply affirm that they are feeling bad things… ’that sounds very scary my darling’, ‘if I was thinking that I would be very worried too’ are some examples. Remember kids take more from what we do than what we tell them to do. They will observe your behaviour to now if they really need to be scared or not and managing your own anxiety will help them manages theirs.
Turn School Closures into a Positive
Schools closing can be framed for you and your kids as a great extra holiday, not as the impending zombie apocalypse! These public health measures are designed to slow transmission to stop an overload of the health service to ensure we keep death rates down to the 1% and don’t go to the 5%. Social distancing doesn’t mean become a hermit and lock yourself and your loved one away in a bunker. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest we stay at least 6 feet away from anyone who appears sick to minimize the risk of getting the disease. The virus passes primarily through saliva and mucus, which can travel from a person’s nose or mouth about 3 to 5 feet, depending on the size of the droplet. Get to know the facts from reputable sources such as the WHO or the NHS.
Managing Fears If Diagnosed with Covid-19
Those diagnosed with the Covid-19 virus are another vulnerable group, mostly because of the potential reaction to them and their own exaggerated fears about what the virus does. Remember over 80% of those that contract the virus have very mild symptoms that pass after two weeks with rest, food and water at home. A smaller percentage have serious symptoms that need medical help and a very small number (between 1-5%) may have life threatening symptoms. However, 100% who are diagnosed with the virus are at risk of being labelled in very negative and frightening terms leading to social isolation, anxiety, fear, stigma and in some cases assault and abuse.
Positivity & Kindness
Helping others helps you, it’s well evidenced that acts of kindness and altruism reduce physical and mental illness. Aggression, fear, anger all produces stress hormones making you more likely to be ill. Be aware of the words you use and how you can promote positive stories on your Facebook or Instagram for example. Try not to obsessively follow the news if it makes you anxious and regularly for all of us take a break from the news full stop! Remember the things you enjoy doing and do them.
Understanding Social Isolation
Social isolation does not mean cut off all contact with the outside world, your friends and family. Now more than ever keep your emotional and social contacts going. We have a huge number of ways to stay in touch which reduce the risk of sneezing on each other and that is all we are being asked to do. Go get your hankies and maybe go say hi to your elderly neighbour, wash your hands after and don’t touch your face. What is so frightening about that? Remember it’s your elderly neighbour who might develop the breathing problems leading to serious problems if they contract the virus, it’s not you. They know this better than you and are feeling worried and anxious in ways you are not. They along
with anyone with another condition are another cohort of people facing serious worries now. Do you know anyone who fits into this category, then go be a good Samaritan.
Share stories of health workers helping and support them. We have a great healthcare system in the UK, and we should be supporting them as they help our loved ones.
Keep Communication Channels Open
If you need to isolate for quarantine purposes remember we live in the digital age. The virus does not transmit across the phone, or by text, it doesn’t go from one Instagram post to the next, it doesn’t jump out a computer screen during a Skype or zoom call; stay in touch. If you have contracted the virus we wish you speedy recovery and thank you for helping with our herd immunity. If a friend, colleague or loved one has contracted the virus reach out to them to let them know they are loved. The most stressful thing we can do to any human is to cut them off from social contact. It’s why it is a punishment in prison for example, so let’s not do that here.
Noel McDermott is a Psychotherapist and International Speaker with over 25 years’ experience in health, social care and education. An impactful workshop leader, he delivers bespoke training on a range of social care, clinical and human rights ethics and issues across multiple sectors. He is the founder and CEO of three organisations, Psychotherapy and Consultancy Ltd, Sober Help Ltd and Mental Health Works Ltd. Noel’s company offer at-home mental health care and will source, identify and co-ordinate personalised care teams for the individual.
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- More information from the World Health Organisation on mental health considerations during the Coronavirus outbreak please visit: