There’s no denying it: no matter how or when the coronavirus crisis will end, it will shake everyone to the core. It’s a heavy period, with important repercussions for all of us.
Things are bad and it’s normal to feel stressed
Generally speaking, two things are very stressful: uncertainty and negativity. COVID-19 has brought both those things in spades, and it’s absolutely normal to feel anxious about that. Quite frankly, it would be abnormal to not feel anxious.
“It is extremely important … that we acknowledge that this uncertainty is stressful,” says Roxane Cohen Silver, Ph.D., Professor of Psychological Science, Medicine, and Public Health at University of California, Irvine “And in fact, this anxiety is appropriate under the circumstances.”
“This is a normal reaction to our new normal. And I think it’s important that journalists acknowledge this fact. It’s also important that we tell the truth.”
To make matters even worse, fun has mostly been banned, as a consequence of social distancing — many of the things people would commonly do to lift some steam are simply not possible in a quarantine.
“Our need to social distance conflicts with our natural desire to connect with our friends and family during stressful times. And our typical sources of distractions such as national or personal sports or going to the gym, going to restaurants or bars, movies or travel, are all restricted by this crisis,” adds Silver.
Alleviating mental pressure and making the best out of a bad situation
Of course, lamenting about the situation won’t do us too much good. Minimizing the uncertainty won’t do us any good, adds Silver, but there is potential to use this challenging time.
“There is a potential to help frame a more positive message: If we work together, we can save lives,” she says.
We also have another advantage: technology. At no point in human history has it been easier to communicate with our loved ones or spend time hanging out with people online.
Of course, Skype or FaceTime are no replacement for face-to-face social interactions, but they’re much better than nothing.
“There are ways in which we can bring our communities together, even if virtually. We can take advantage of the technologies that are now at our fingertips,” Silver explains.
If we want to improve our mental state, researchers say, we’d also be wise to shift our mindset. We’re in a state of prolonged uncertainty, but there’s a reason why we’re doing this: to protect people in society.
“Research demonstrates that how we appraise or interpret a situation can influence our physiological response. So one potential option is to shift our mindset,” explains Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Brigham Young University.
“Instead of interpreting the situation as being cut off from others, we can focus on doing this to protect those that we love.
There’s also a way to find something positive in all of this: although we’re isolated on our own, we’re all in this together. This sense of remote solidarity is an important driver, and it’s something that can help us get over the nasty hump that lies ahead.
“It’s extremely important that we recognize that anxiety is contagious, but so is compassion. And there are ways in which we can bring our communities together, even if virtually. We can take advantage of the technologies that are now at our fingertips. We can encourage positive community outcomes such as altruistic behavior, social cohesion, volunteerism, reaching out to those who are living alone or who are seniors,” concludes Roxane Cohen Silver.
It’s important to take care of our mental health as well as our physical health.