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March 25, 2020

As the number of Corona Virus cases rise across the globe, the level of anxiety within the community is increasing. Feelings of worry and unease can be expected following a stressful event. It is a very normal and natural response to feel this way, it is important to acknowledge and recognise this. However it is also important that we learn to manage our stress before it turns to more severe anxiety and panic.

This information sheet outlines some useful strategies which can be helpful with the stress or anxiety experienced as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Media Coverage:
While the media focus is on the impact on people’s physical health and what is being done to prevent the spread of the disease; anxiety about the virus can also have an impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing. Stay connected with current events, but be careful where you get news and health information from. Instead seek out factual information from reliable sources such as the World Health Organization.

Try to limit the amount of time and checking media reports constant media coverage about the coronavirus can keep us in a heightened state of anxiety. Keep things in perspective, when we are stressed, it is easy to see things as worse than they really are. Rather than imagining the worst-case scenario and worrying about it, ask yourself:

• Am I getting ahead of myself, assuming something bad will happen when I really don’t know the outcome? Remind yourself that the actual number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in UAE is still very low.

• Am I overestimating how bad the consequences will be? Remember, illness due to coronavirus infection is usually mild and most people recover without needing specialised treatment.

• Am I underestimating my ability to cope? Sometimes thinking about how you would cope, even if the worst were to happen, can help you put things into perspective.

Take reasonable precautions, being proactive by following basic hygiene principles can keep your anxiety at bay. The World Health Organization recommends a number of protective measures against the Corona Virus, including to:

• Wash your hands frequently
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
• Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell until you fully recover
• Seek medical care early if you have a fever, cough or experience breathing difficulties
• Practice self-care

To help encourage a positive frame of mind, it is important to look after yourself. Everybody practices self-care differently with some examples including:

• Maintaining good social connections and communicating openly with family and friends
• Making time for activities and hobbies you enjoy, or finding new things you can do at home such as reading, drawing, playing games
• Keeping up a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting quality sleep
• Practicing relaxation and mindfulness to give your body a chance to settle and readjust to a calm state.

Do something you can control, during this time there are so many things outside of our control, including how long the pandemic will last, how other people behave, and what’s going to happen in our communities. This can feel overwhelming. When you notice that you feel yourself getting caught up in fear of what might happen, try to shift your focus to things you can control.

 Getting plenty of sleep, which helps support your immune system
 Following recommendations from health authorities
 Washing your hands regularly
 Limiting how long and the amount of time you check your news feed
 Practicing some relaxation techniques
 Keeping a journal/ writing down some of your worries

Positive social connections are essential for our mental health and can help us cope in times of stress. In the current crisis, we are being asked to distance ourselves from others so it is important that we maintain our social networks using available methods of communication. This can be as simple as phoning a friend to share your experience, using video messaging to check in with a family members.

Calming breathing techniques:
1) Sit in a comfortable position on a chair or laying down on your bed
2) Take a breath in for 4 seconds (through your nose if possible)
3) Pause for 2 seconds
4) Release the breath for 6 seconds (through your mouth)

Helpful online resources:
 World Health Organization (WHO)
 MIND, the mental health charity
 Headspace, simple meditation

Information gathered by Dr Sarah Lawson, Clinical Psychologist at HealthBay from following
resources on 23/03/2020: The Australian Psychological Society, World Health Organization,
Mental health Charity (MIND), The British Psychological Society

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