How to manage stress during the quarantine

Feeling extra-stressed these days? Staying glued to screens — whether it’s your smartphone, laptop or TV — for minute-by-minute updates on the global COVID-19 emergency can add to coronavirus-related stress, according to health experts.

With Filipinos spending some nine hours and 45 minutes every day using the internet — the most out of any country, and well above the global average of six hours 43 minutes, according to the latest Digital 2020 report by We Are Social and HootSuite — Filipinos are perhaps more prone to being stressed because of the amount of time spent using screens.

Amid the bombardment of information and updates, it is easy to feel panicked and/or helpless. “Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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How then does one keep calm and carry on during this enhanced community quarantine? Here are some tips:

Take a break from your screens.

Hit pause on watching the news or scrolling through your social media feed for several minutes a day. Spend a couple of minutes away from your gadgets for a quick digital detox.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it helps to minimize “watching, reading or listening to news about COVID-19 that causes you to feel anxious or distressed.” WHO also suggests seeking information updates at specific times during the day—maybe once or twice—using trusted sources.

“The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried. Get the facts; not rumors and misinformation. Gather information at regular intervals from the WHO website and local health authority platforms in order to help you distinguish facts from rumors. Facts can help to minimize fears,” WHO adds.

Take care of your body.

Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Listen to music or calming podcasts. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals, and try to exercise while at home.

Learning simple daily exercises to perform at home can help maintain mobility and reduce boredom, particularly for elderly people, according to WHO. And while sleep may be elusive to many in this stressful time, the CDC recommends maintaining a consistent sleep schedule to improve sleep health. “Be consistent. Go to bed the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends,” CDC suggests, adding that it is also best NOT to sleep with gadgets around.

Unwind. Reset.

Watch entertaining videos online, try to learn new skills, download a new mobile game, or do indoor activities that you enjoy.

“During times of stress, pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing,” WHO recommends.

If there are children staying at home, it is also important to provide age-appropriate activities for them, including activities for learning.

Make meaningful connections.

Schedule a family game night. Invite your friends to a video call once a week. Share stories online. Stay connected even during the lockdown.

Keeping in touch with loved ones, especially if spending quarantine away from them, is important. “If health authorities have recommended limiting your physical social contact to contain the outbreak, you can stay connected via telephone, e-mail, social media or video conference,” WHO suggests.

If you’re spending quarantine with your children, talk to them about COVID-19. “Children may feel afraid or anxious about the new coronavirus,” says Dr. Joseph McGuire, child psychologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine. “It is important to validate feelings of worry and not dismiss them outright. He says listening to children, providing accurate information and then focusing on prevention by teaching preventive actions (handwashing, healthy meals, etc.) are just some things parents can undertake with their kids.

Find a way to help.

Donate. Or call for donations. Bring people together for online Bayanihan. Any help in any form no matter how little will go a long way. You can also check out PayMaya, Smart, PLDT, or MVP Rewards for their efforts to raise funds to support efforts against COVID-19.

In the end, we are all in this together, and every effort counts. WHO also recommends extending support in addition to protecting yourself and your family. “Assisting others in their time of need can benefit both the person receiving support and the helper. For example, check by telephone on neighbors or people in your community who may need some extra assistance. Working together as one community can help to create solidarity in addressing COVID-19 together,” WHO suggests.

And when the opportunity arises, amplify positive and hopeful stories: Stories of people who have recovered or who have supported a loved one and are willing to share their experience, as well as stories honoring healthcare workers supporting people affected with COVID-19.

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