Dealing with COVID-19 anxiety and stress

With thousands of people out of work, daily curfews and weekend lockdowns a normal occurrence in these troubling times of COVID-19, people can feel afraid, anxious and stressed, but a clinical psychologist says it’s okay to have those feelings.

“We want to reassure people that it’s natural and normal to be afraid, or anxious or stressed. It’s quite human in these extreme circumstances,” Rochelle Basden, a clinical psychologist, told The Nassau Guardian.

To combat anxiety and fear, she said, people can try to practice mindfulness to build resilience. She also encouraged they take care of themselves by engaging in exercise, eating healthy, embracing positive thinking and finding meaning and purpose in life through establishment of a routine.

“Routines are not a new thing, but they’ve been disrupted since COVID, so we now have to establish new routines,” she said.

With the country under a state of emergency through the end of May with daily curfews and weekend lockdowns, Basden said people can make the experience an “amazing time” if they are able to put themselves into put a positive spin on the experience.

Basden suggested thinking positively and challenging irrational thoughts and fears about whether they’re going to catch COVID-19. And if they do get it, whether they will recover from it.

The Bahamas had 92 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 11 deaths, 31 recovered cases, eight hospitalized cases and 50 active cases yesterday; and 1,539 tests have been completed.

Worldwide, there were 3,813,123 confirmed cases and 267,233 deaths.

Basden said people should separate the facts from the fiction if they can, and limit consumption of the new coronavirus subject if they can’t make the separation, to lessen the stress.

The psychologist also recommended that people find creative ways to busy themselves and distract from the fact that they are under curfews and lockdowns, and also to earn an income.

Basden said people should look at this downtime to not just hone skills, but try new things.

“Maybe there’s something they wanted to do, but never had the time to do,” she said.

She’s taken note of the many people who have shown an interest in backyard gardening; and others taking to making face masks or taking to the kitchen to prepare interesting dishes.

For coping, she endorsed self-care, exercise and nutrition, rest and relaxation and that people maintain a good sleep hygiene, which she said is important. She said people should still have a time when they go to bed and when they wake up, and that they not feel like because they’re at home they can just lounge around. Inactivity, she said, really does work against you.

“So, you do have to make sure you get in some activity and that you establish and maintain boundaries, because this is a time  when people go into that heroic mode and want to just reach out and help somebody, and that’s a good thing.”

However, while looking to help others, she said, people need to remember to help themselves first so that they can then in turn help others.

The psychologist also said people should not seek to mask their feelings with the use of mind-altering substances like alcohol and smokes, and to find more effective ways to deal with problems. She said the use of mind-altering substances only makes people feel better in the moment, and problems don’t go away.

“When you wake up out of it, you’re right back to it where you started. So, you want to use other methods to cope with the anxiety, stress or loneliness and not try to wash it away with alcohol or other mood-altering substances.”

Basden urged people to do their best to find creative outlets to work through this difficult time. And said people should not be afraid to ask for help if her suggestions don’t work for them.

Help is available to people through the telepsychology services hotline at 819-7652, 812-0576, 816-3799 or 815-5850.

“COVID is certainly something none of us had experienced. We’ve never lived through a global pandemic. We’ve never been in quarantine. We’ve never been in curfew and lockdown and all those other variants, and so here it is, not just us, but the whole world, so you can’t get on a plane and escape. You can’t even go to a Family Island. When has that ever been the case? I’m sure you could go over to Paradise Island, but what would you do once you get across the bridge? Those outlets and those things that we’re accustomed to doing to let our hair down and relax, are not available to us. People like to have the option to move, but those options have been taken away from them, so they’re getting tired of the whole thing.”

She also said while concerned about their own health, people have concerns about the health of loved ones, the loss of income and job security, which she said are real fears to have. And they’re frustrated about being confined to home. She said people are just tired of the same people they’re closed up in the house with and want to see other family and friends.

“I just want to remind people first and foremost that you’re not alone. And we need really to hold each other’s hand, figuratively of course, and support each other through this.”

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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