Staying calm during the COVID-19 pandemic

Sarah Newcomb-Anjo, MA, Clinical Psychology Residency Program Pre-doctoral Intern, Horizon Health Network

My name is Sarah, and I am one of the two pre-doctoral psychology interns working with Horizon this year. I split my time between the Health Psychology Department at Horizon’s Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital and the Operational Stress Injury Clinic in Fredericton.

Today, I wanted to share some evidence-based strategies that may help you stay calm during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are in an unprecedented situation, with a lot of uncertainty. Situations like this can make people feel many ways, and it is normal and natural to feel negative emotions (like anger, sadness, anxiety). But, the good news is there are things we can do to provide ourselves with some relief.

Follow these tips to stay calm:

Practice good self-care

This means ensuring good sleep, diet, and exercise, and maintaining a routine.

Especially for those working on the frontline: when you’re not at work, take time for yourself whenever possible. Taking a break to relax is not selfish – it actually helps you work more effectively.

Another self-care strategy is to limit the amount of news/social media you consume.

Remain socially connected (while maintaining physical distancing)

If you are isolated at home, connect with others over the phone or virtually.

If you work on a team, reach out to your team members and try to support them. Research consistently documents that being able to talk, de-brief, and have social support are crucial during a challenging situation.

Notice and be mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and reactions

When distressed, people typically try to ignore how they feel. But, it is more helpful to acknowledge and process how we are doing.

Write out your worries, reactions and feelings, and remind yourself that they are normal and fair.

Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling.

If you have worries about what might happen, ask yourself if they are “solvable” or “unsolvable” worries

It is normal to feel worried during a pandemic, but it is important to write out your worries and ask yourself (or your support system) if anything can be done about them.

For example, some of our worries are solvable (e.g., who will care for your kids while you are at work) and you can act on these worries now.

But, you may not be able to act on other worries (e.g., whether a loved one will end up in the ICU). In these cases, it is important to label these worries as unsolvable, and remind yourself that you cannot do anything about them.

Accept what you cannot control, and focus on what you can control

Much of this pandemic is out of our individual control.  We can’t control the virus, other people, the health care system, or the economy. We must let go of the desire to change things that we cannot change.

But, wecancontrol ouractions. For example, consider how you will use your time, how you will help in the midst of this crisis (e.g., by physical distancing), and what you can do that is personally meaningful for you.

Remind yourself that this situation is temporary

The timeframe might be unclear, but this situation will eventually resolve.

Further, although this is a Public Health crisis,you may be underestimating your ability to cope with it. This virus will negatively impact some of us, but it is important to consider that it may go better than you anticipate. Humans are often more resilient than we give ourselves credit for.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading and best of luck throughout this challenging time. If you’re looking for a guided relaxation exercise that you can use on your downtime, click here.