While we are all staying at home to do our collective duty to protect each other, and defeat this virus, it is important to stay mentally motivated despite the fear of the national lockdown threatening our livelihoods.
Dr Dominique Stott, Chief Medical Officer at Liberty gives us some tips and insight into staying well and mentally strong during lockdown.
It’s normal to have heightened anxiety during this time
There are many South Africans who live with anxiety disorders. These are often characterised by a fear of being out of control, an inability to tolerate uncertainty, and worrying about the unknown. At a time like this when so much is beyond our control, it’s important to minimise additional uncertainty in our personal lives.
If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, or any other mental illness, check in with your health providers to understand how they will be making themselves available to you during the coming weeks. They may have home programmes and WhatsApp groups to support patients and help them manage the aspects of these disorders that are exacerbated by isolating, uncertainty and disruption to routine.
Feeling lonely and alone is to be expected
We are, by nature, social beings. We need time with others, as well as the physical comfort of a hug, a hand held or a reassuring squeeze of our shoulder. Even those who appreciate more time alone are likely to struggle. During this time keep regular contact with friends, family members, and co-workers. Speak to them, check in on them and share how you are feeling. Facetime them, set up family video calls, perhaps share a ‘virtual lunch’. Plan to do this and make time to connect beyond social media channels and apps.
Don’t be afraid to let family and friends know what you are going through, ask them for support and call on them if you feel that your anxiety is becoming unmanageable.
Prioritise your emotional and physical well-being so that you can be there for others
Now, more than ever before, each of us needs to be emotionally robust so that we are able to support others in our circle who may be struggling with their physical or emotional well-being. Particularly because we will have to find innovative ways to assist. Here are some of the ways you can manage and help others manage daily amidst uncertainty:
- Maintain a routine
We are creatures of habit and routines give us comfort and create a sense of security. Balance this with some variety and ensure that you are taking mental breaks if you are working from home. Routines create a sense of structure and control over our environment, which is important to balance the loss of control over many aspects of our lives during this time.
2. Avoid additional stress by continuing to manage your finances responsibly
Financial challenges are a reality for many during this time, with many sectors and companies severely challenged by the lockdown. If you own a small business, investigate how you can participate in the relief options available. If you have been affected by job losses or salary cuts speak to your financial services providers and enter into arrangements with them to maintain your credit rating and ensure that your policies remain active.
3. Prioritise your financial obligations
During this time it’s critical to maintain your medical scheme contributions, life insurance and income protection and disability premiums. If this is challenging speak to your financial adviser and understand how you can better structure your portfolio. There may be flexibility on suspending some payments, for a period of time until you recover financially.
4. Eat well, get some sun and find ways to exercise
Nourishing food, 30 minutes of sunlight a day and keeping hydrated are going to be essential to maintaining our physical and mental well-being. Exercise at home where possible, even if it’s through doing routine tasks such as housework or gardening. Take a look on social media to see if your local gym or fitness instructors are offering online classes and join in.
5. Set up regular news feeds from reputable sources and balance this with other activities
Staying informed and aware of news updates is important. Choose the channels for this information carefully and defer to organisations such as WHO, NICD and Universities who will have properly researched and vetted the information they publish.
6. Stay socially aware within boundaries
Set up regular updates via social or news feeds and balance this with other activities. While some of the news may be good, we are likely to experience more bad news before the curve of infection begins to flatten.
Maintaining contact with the outside world using only the information on social media and news sites can be dangerous; as it removes the context of reality checks and often distorts our sense of reality, resulting in more anxiety, rather than less.
And finally, laughter may still be one of the best medicine available.