COVID-19 and Mental Health: 8 Tips from a Psychologist

There is currently an explosion of information, comments and opinions on the new coronavirus on the internet and on social media. We believe that on serious topics in general, and on public health matters in particular, it is essential that you rely on facts and seek credible, expert information. Our mission at AD MediLink remains to bring you the best possible information and advice, so you can make the best choices for you and your family. 

 


 

The current climate of fear and uncertainty brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, mixed with social isolation, is a major challenge for our mental health.

To help us cope with the emotions this situation has stirred up, we have asked for advice to Dr. Sharmeen Shroff, a clinical psychologist in Hong Kong, with over 14 years of experience in 3 countries.

Today, Dr. Shroff answers our questions and gives us tips to keep our mental health in shape.

 

I am bombarded with information, how to stay informed without being overwhelmed?

You can get a lot of false information and anecdotal reports by reading every social media post or news article you come across. Consider how much information you are taking in and reflect on how it is affecting you. Is all this information increasing or decreasing your anxiety? Try to accept that there are things that are out of your control, and the best you can do is to follow the guidelines laid out by the experts to keep yourself safe.

Here is a link for some good, reliable up-to-date information from the WHO delivered directly to your WhatsApp.

 

Any good habits I can adopt at home to feel better during this period?

Focus on self care and take care of yourself – that may be through nourishing foods, getting enough sleep, breathing or mindfulness practice, long showers or baths or exercise. Engage in activities you enjoy – cooking, spring-cleaning, reading, writing, listening to music, binge watching your favourite TV show or creating. Try and spend some part of your day focusing on the parts of life that energise you.

 

How to deal with isolation and loneliness when social distancing is required?

Having people to lean on is essential for your emotional health and well being. Staying connected to others by phone, Face time, Houseparty apps or office messaging systems can make a world of difference in your mood and your perception of your stressors.  

Seek support from family, friends and colleagues and talk about how you’re feeling. If you are still struggling to cope with uncertainty, seek professional help. A qualified counsellor or psychologist can help you develop healthy ways to cope with your stressors and anxiety.  

 

If you are looking for a psychologist, here is a practical guide by our partner Healthy Matters.

 

With home office and home schooling, how can I maintain a healthy balance?

– Set boundaries between your work and home.
– Make time for a lunch break.
– Take time to move during the day.
– Set up a designated work space.
– Wake up and get dressed for the day.

 

My kids are anxious, how to reassure them?

If your children are anxious, then they already have some idea of what is going on around them. Don’t pretend everything is okay, instead ask them what they have heard about the outbreak and offer them support without causing them alarm. We need to minimise the negative impact this has on our children and explain the facts to them. Discuss the news with them but try and avoid over-exposure to coverage of the virus. Be as truthful as you can and include them in your new healthy home routines. The key is to reassure them that they are safe, but allow them to feel whatever they are feeling. Share with them how you deal with your own anxiety or stress so they can learn how to cope from you.

 

For information about COVID-19 & children, read our exclusive interview with a pediatrician.

 

Any tips to retain a sense of normalcy?

Just because we have to work from home, doesn’t mean that we need to completely abandon our normal routines. Continue to make an effort to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep. Your gym or regular yoga studio may currently be off limits, but with modern technology you can easily access a workout or yoga video online that you can follow at home. Self care doesn’t always have to be physical, it’s just as important to engage in activities that relax you such as taking a long bath or shower, reading, listening to soothing music, doing a mindfulness exercise or journaling. Create a daily routine that prioritises looking after yourself.  

 

Some people don’t share my level of concern. I can get really frustrated. How to deal with it?  

It’s perfectly okay to have a difference in opinion, as long as the other person’s view does not personally impact you. People are allowed to disagree with each other, but that doesn’t mean that respect has to go out the window too.

 

Any good online resources if I need support?

Here are a few:

www.mind.org.hk/coronavirusoutbreakmentalhealthtips

www.centralminds.hk/anxiety/uncertainty

 

Washing our hands and taking precautions to protect each other have become part of our daily routine but this is a time to pay attention to our mental health, too. Look after yourself and your loved ones. We can mask our faces but should not mask our feelings!

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Dr. Sharmeen Shroff is a clinical psychologist based in Hong Kong. She completed her PsyD in the US and has been practicing for 14 years in the US, UK and HK. Dr. Shroff is the founder of Central Minds, a private psychology practice.

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This article was independently written by AD MediLink and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should never be relied upon for specific advice.