Outbreaks and pandemics periods can be stressful, but how can we turn it to a positive life-changing experience?

covid mind

(United Nations COVID-19 Response: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Samah Khierbeik, a newly three-month graduated medical student at Tishreen University in Syria. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Infectious disease outbreaks can be scary and can affect our mental health. While it is important to stay informed, there are also many things we can do to support and manage our wellbeing during such times. And as the COVID-19 pandemic and its far-reaching implications continue to unfold globally and dominate the headlines and public concern, it’s normal for people to experience a wide range of thoughts, feelings and reactions.

Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with stress will make us, the people we care about, and our community stronger. So, how can we be positive influencers on ourselves, family, friends and community?

When many things feel uncertain or out of our control, one of the most effective ways we can manage stress and anxiety is to focus on the actions that are in our control. Here are some ways we can take intentional steps to look after our physical and emotional wellbeing during this challenging time:

  • Learn how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19: There are many important actions we can all take to protect against infection and prevent the virus from spreading including practicing good hygiene, self-isolation, and social (physical) distancing.
  • Acknowledge your feelings. Whatever you are feeling right now, know that it’s okay to feel that way. Allow yourself time to notice and express what you’re feeling. This could be through journaling, talking with others, or channeling your emotions into something creative (e.g., drawing, painting, poetry, music).
  • Maintain your day-to-day activities and a routine as much as possible. Go back to basics: eating healthy meals, physical exercise (e.g., walking, stretching, running, cycling), getting enough sleep, and doing things you enjoy. Even if you’re in self-quarantine, or working from home.
  • Keep learning and maintaining your study: Read a book, Listen to a podcast, and try out a new hobby or skill (e.g., cook a new recipe, play an instrument, learn a language, learn how to sew, gardening).
  • Stay connected: Remember that physical distancing does not need to mean social disconnection. There are many ways we can use technology to stay connected, and both give and receive support (remotely). You could: Call, text, or video-chat with friends and family, Share quick and easy recipes, Start a virtual book or movie club, schedule a workout together over video chat, or Join an online group or peer forum. Showing care towards friends, family, or vulnerable people in our community can be all the more important during times like this. It can foster a sense of hope, purpose, and meaning.
  • It’s also okay to take breaks from conversations with others about COVID-19 and suggest talking about other topics. Tune in with yourself and ask if they need to be adjusted. Are there particular accounts or people that are increasing your worry or anxiety? Consider muting or unfollowing accounts or hashtags that cause you to feel anxious. Rumors and speculation can fuel anxiety. Having access to good quality information about the virus can help you feel more in control.
  • Stay up to date with university advice and support. Check the University’s student support website for important information, including course-specific updates and other advice for affected students.
  • Don’t judge people and avoid jumping to conclusions about who is responsible for the spread of the disease. The coronavirus can affect anyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity or sex.
  • Children and teens react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Let them know it is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you. Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.
  • Look after your sleep: Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep good sleep hygiene practices – like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment.
  • If you can, once a day get outside, or bring nature in: Spending time in green spaces can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. If you can’t get outside you can try to get these positive effects by spending time with the windows open, or arranging space to sit and see a view (if possible) and get some natural sunlight.
  • Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking: Try and focus on things that are positive in your life. WHO recommends to find opportunities to amplify the voices, positive stories and positive images of local people who have experienced the novel coronavirus and have recovered or who have supported a loved one through recovery and are willing to share their experience. When it comes to mental health, words matter.

During this time of change, it’s natural for our minds to think of all the usual activities we may not be able to do at the moment. Make a conscious shift to focus on the activities we are still able to do, or those that we may have more opportunity to do if we’re at home more often.

What is happening now is out of our desire but we have the key to make it a great life-changing experienc.

References

  1. 14 ways to protect your mental health in the pandemic, according to Public Health England [Internet]. World Economic Forum. 2020 [cited 25 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/14-ways-to-protect-your-mental-health-in-the-pandemic-according-to-public-health-england
  2. Coronavirus: 8 ways to look after your mental health [Internet]. Mental Health Europe. 2020 [cited 25 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.mhe-sme.org/covid-19
  3. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020 [cited 25 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fprepare%2Fmanaging-stress-anxiety.html
  4. Services C, anxiety C. Coronavirus (COVID-19): managing stress and anxiety [Internet]. Counselling & Psychological Services. 2020 [cited 25 April 2020]. Available from: https://services.unimelb.edu.au/counsel/resources/wellbeing/coronavirus-covid-19-managing-stress-and-anxiety
  5. Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak [Internet]. Mental Health Foundation. 2020 [cited 25 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-coronavirus-outbreak?fbclid=IwAR14jAugd25NXJcwuaRYm7vzfM9AHxaGI4HTKxld_799gMO9o-mxsEBk3Q8

About the author

Samah Khierbeik is a newly three-month graduated medical student at Tishreen University in Syria. She is a member in many medical and scientific teams and organizations. As a member of the MED Research Team, she helps to enroll medical students in scientific researches and case reports by making workshops and participation in local and international conferences which one was lately held in Oxford. They have published many researches in international Journals. Also, as a member in Syrian Researchers Organization, they have an objective of raising both scientific and academic awareness and to share knowledge through all readable, audible and visual means. Nowadays, she is working in CRCTU (Cancer Research Centre-Tishreen University) in the department in Tishreen Hospital in Lattakia as a research assistant. She highly believes in the role of youth medical students to improve the academic and
educational reality, as well being in touch with all local and international events, like what we are living today in the time of COVID-19, to be active members in spreading knowledge and awareness in their communities.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year


Re-thinking citizenship education: bringing young people back to the ballot box

Where do Americans stand on immigration? They’re not as divided as you might think

From underestimation to valorization: how mobile technology is transforming global health

EU and U.S. castigate Facebook on Cambridge Analytica scandal as citizens’ data privacy goes down the drain again

The 27 EU leaders did nothing to help May unlock the Brexit talks

Yemen: Security Council backs new mission in support of key port city truce

South Sudan: €48.5 million in additional EU humanitarian aid

FROM THE FIELD: What do you want to be when you grow up? One day I will…

Denouncing attacks against Baghdad protesters, UN warns ‘violence risks placing Iraq on dangerous trajectory’

European Parliament marks EU accession prospects for Serbia and Kosovo

South Sudan: UN rights experts see little headway on peace deal amid spike in local-level violence

Nicaragua ‘crisis’ still cause for concern amid murder, torture allegations: Bachelet

Women lose most from the climate crisis. How can we empower them?

New Consumer Agenda: European Commission to empower consumers to become the driver of transition

These are the most desirable cities for overseas workers

Is Universal Health Coverage really available for all in the European Union?

Force used against protestors in Gaza ‘wholly disproportionate’ says UN human rights chief

The European reaction to the neo-fascist wind

Greece @ MWC14: Greek-born mobile champions at MWC 2014

UN rights chief denounces Burundi for ‘belligerent and defamatory’ attack on inquiry team

Coronavirus: a Disease that spreads as fastly as its fake news

European Youth Forum and youngest MEPs call on President Juncker to keep his promise to Europe’s youth

Haitian President at General Assembly calls for essential development aid as UN mission shifts away from peacekeeping

The European Green Deal sets out how to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, boosting the economy, improving people’s health and quality of life, caring for nature, and leaving no one behind

There is huge talent in the world’s refugee camps. We must realize this overlooked potential

How do we really feel about women leaders?

Innovations for Content Professionals at the DCX exhibition 2018 in Berlin, in association with The European Sting

Coronavirus is creating retirement insecurity. These 10 steps can diffuse the timebomb of an ageing population

The EU wants to create 10 million smart lampposts

Circular Plastics Alliance: 100+ signatories commit to use 10 million tons of recycled plastic in new products by 2025

Green Deal: measures to step up the fight against global deforestation

How youth and technology can drive Africa’s COVID-19 response

The community and a decent working conditions for the young health workforce

Trailing the US-EU economic confrontation

FROM THE FIELD: Niger supporting the most vulnerable, as crises mount

These 5 charts show our shifting behaviour around coronavirus

What’s really driving corporate climate action?

Climate change hits the poor hardest. Mozambique’s cyclones prove it

From Israel’s ‘start-up nation’, 4 lessons in innovation

Monday’s Daily Brief: the cost of maternal healthcare, Sudan and Chad updates, sustainability in focus

OECD tells Eurozone to prepare its banks for a tsunami coming from developing countries

Here’s how to rebut the climate doom-mongers

Drones are saving lives in Tanzania’s remote communities

Trade: First year of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement shows growth in EU exports

UN chief urges restraint following reported Saudi-led assault in Yemen

5 steps businesses can take to protect air quality after COVID-19

The EU Parliament slams Commission on economic governance

How the tech sector can power the shift to a sustainable economy

Trash bin at the top of the world: can we prevent Arctic plastic pollution?

Eurozone cannot endure any longer youth marginalisation

European Union and African Union sign partnership to scale up preparedness for health emergencies

Turning challenge into opportunity on the course to becoming the first climate-neutral continent

‘Reef cubes’: could these plastic-free blocks help save the ocean?

Eurozone: Negative statistics bring deflation and recession closer

UN food aid to Yemen will fully resume after two-month break, as Houthis ‘guarantee’ delivery

What happens when you toss your water bottle in the trash?

Safe drinking water, sanitation, are ‘basic human rights’: new UN Water Development report

Parliament to ask for the suspension of EU-US deal on bank data

Dutch voters reject EU-Ukraine partnership and open a new pandora’s box for the EU

Progress made in UN talks to end Yemen war, Envoy lauds ‘positive and serious spirit’

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s