Throw away those tea towels and cups with the famous war slogan Keep Calm and Carry On – because leading UK mental health experts warn that trying to keep on merry denying the tremendous stress of living in coronavirus isolation may be one of the worst things we can do.
Instead, they believe that if we want to get out of isolation in a healthy way, we need to recognize the tensions we have and adopt active strategies to promote and protect our mental health. Our new motto should be: stay at home and do everything to stay healthy.
Professor Sir Simon Wessely, one of the UK’s top authorities in the field of traumatic stress, is fully aware of the trials involved. He recently came out of 14 days of self-isolation after his wife, Clare Gerada, the former president of the Royal College of GPs, contracted coronavirus while traveling to New York (as she told Good Health earlier this month).
Professor Sir Simon Wessely, one of the UK’s top authorities on traumatic stress, said self-isolation is difficult. (Stock image)
Sir Simon, a professor of psychological medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London and president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, told Good Health: “We must recognize that self-isolation is difficult.
Fortunately, my wife has recovered quickly and I remain healthy. It was stressful enough for us even though we have a nice house with two bathrooms. ‘
Of course, the tensions for families locked up in smaller houses together, or single people, can be exponentially worse – while such problems can only be exacerbated by the fact that we are in the midst of an infection of fear, as well as a viral pandemic.
Numerous studies have shown how we can absorb fear from others. For example, psychologists at Michigan University have found the phenomenon among student roommates. In the journal Health Economics in 2013, they reported that people who shared with anxious students subsequently saw their own anxiety levels rise.
Other studies have shown that anxious teachers cause more anxiety in their students and that siblings are particularly effective at passing stress on to each other.
This happens both online and in self-insulating families.
In 2017, psychologists from Arkansas State University, who studied more than 240 students, warned in The Journal of Psychology & the Behavioral Sciences that sites like Facebook can quickly spread anxiety and depression through communities by posting people with stories of feeling stressed to be.
There is already stress contamination across Britain, says Professor Wessely. “We know from public polls that the fear in the population is increasing as a result of the pandemic.
“It’s normal and healthy to be anxious,” he says. “We shouldn’t tell people to calm down.
“It is important to say that anxiety is not a mental disorder, but rather a rational response to a scary situation.”
Professor Wessely says that the British authorities recently feared that the British remained too calm about the corona virus: “We were afraid that people were not afraid enough to let them participate in the necessary measures to reduce the spread of the corona virus.”
The Apple method
David Smithson, operations director of the charity Anxiety UK, recommends that when people feel overwhelmed by stress, they focus on the acronym APPLE. . .
Acknowledge the fearful uncertainty and keep it in mind, rather than being caught in it.
Instead of reacting anxiously to your feelings, pause.
Withdraw from all your worries.
Let go of the thought or feeling.
Explore the present moment and shift your attention to something that is not stressful.
There was much criticism of the government’s reluctance to impose a lockdown, but David Hunter, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at the University of Oxford, argues that if the lockdown were to be imposed too quickly, the public would be quarantined. and rebels would get fed up. .
Last week, he wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine, “Legitimate concerns about the adverse effects of social distance on the sense of isolation, loneliness, and access for some older adults of the elderly led to the argument that social distance should be delayed for as long as possible. ‘
Now we are all committed to it for the duration.
The more positive news is that the British population has proven much more resilient in the past than psychologists had predicted.
“At the beginning of World War II, there was absolute consensus that after a bad night of bombing, the population would flee the cities and we would lose the war,” said Professor Wessely. “But it didn’t happen. In the vast majority of cases, people got used to the new reality very quickly. ‘
The big difference now is that people in World War II were not isolated. Instead, the war authorities encouraged social intimacy by keeping cafes, pubs and clubs open.
“Quarantine research shows that it increases anxiety-related mental health problems, such as clinical depression, and increases the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder in people who suffer from it,” said Professor Wessely.
“The study data we have applauded for resilience. But there is a limit to how much pain a society can tolerate. We wonder how long people will continue to do this. Hopefully we will be able to have periodic interruptions due to locking. ”
When do those breaks come?
It’s best for the authorities not to risk guesswork, says Professor Wessely. The most crucial thing is not to give people false reassurance. If you give people a date and you don’t stick to it, you will have more mental health problems because they lose the crucial confidence in what they are told. ‘
So we are in the long run and that’s all we know. Meanwhile, this is what experts say to Good Health that we need to do to keep ourselves mentally healthy.
Be positive about fear
Dr Sally Austen, a clinical clinical psychologist in Birmingham, says, “It’s fine to be afraid. This is a scary time.
“Fear is survival. Without it, we would die – hugging lions that look cute, or juggling knives. We don’t want to completely turn off our fear because our fear is helpful in guiding us. So try not to crush it with too much alcohol or drugs.
“Let it warn you to wash your hands and follow government health advice. Let it remind you to call your loved ones. But notice when you feel overburdened and need to do something else. ‘
Stay positive during the lockdown and try to do something physical like cleaning (stock)
Dr. Austen suggests that when we feel overwhelmed, we need to do something physical, like clean cabinets, chop wood, or do some printing.
Last year, a report in the journal Anxiety & Depression found that people with anxiety disorders who reported high physical activity were better protected from developing anxiety symptoms than those who reported low physical activity.
Exercise is believed to help by releasing “feel-good” endorphins that counter anxiety, while also lowering levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline.
Exercise can also distract people’s attention from their concerns.
And going outdoors in nature is a proven stress reliever. A report from Harvard University earlier this month in the journal Environment International, for example, surveyed 100 people and found that even periods of just six minutes in a natural environment significantly reduced their anxiety levels.
The biophilia hypothesis states that we find nature stress relieving because it is the environment in which we have evolved for millennia.
Stay close to your love
Studies of people who have been dragged into disasters show that they are least traumatized if they can keep in touch with their neighbors.
For example, a 2017 report in The BMJ on the impact of the July 7 terrorist attacks in London showed that: “Fears and fears among the general public were largely managed by people who turned to their existing social networks.
“For most people, social support from family, friends, colleagues or other members of their social network is associated with good mental health.”
It added: “There are indications that people are more concerned about their loved ones in disasters than about themselves.
“Not being able to reach loved ones after trauma is associated with higher anxiety, not only in the short term, but up to six months later.”
Readers can also take advantage of modern technology to stay in touch and stay close to their loved ones
MAKE THE MOST OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Professor Wessely says it is now important to activate your social networks. “They can be key to fostering connections with people of your choice when you want to,” he says.
Social media is just a tool in your arsenal to be used well or badly. The same 2017 Arkansas University study, which found that Facebook can increase personal anxiety and depression, also reported that it increases happiness and good mood earlier by sharing positivity and social support.
Social media is recommended because it helps you keep in touch with family and friends (stock)
Dr. Lisa Orchard, an expert in cyber psychology at Wolverhampton University, says that actively using social media – such as organizing virtual encounters with friends and family – rather than passively reading only messages you see is better for the mental health.
“These don’t have to be limited to chatting,” she says. “Friends and family can participate in group activities such as watching movies or cooking together virtually.”
SPEAK OUTDOORS WITH CHILDREN
Communicating feelings with your children is essential. You should be as positive as possible, rather than just transferring your fear to them, says Andrea Chatten, an emotional and behavioral psychologist for children in Sheffield.
“A good way to start is by asking them what they know about the situation and how they think other children can feel,” she says. “Ask them how they feel about the situation and tell them how you feel about it.
“When adults share their feelings (without being of course catastrophic), they can really benefit young people by teaching them to name their feelings and develop some control over them. If you don’t recognize feelings of fear, your brain can keep stepping them up and forcing you to notice them. ‘
Talking to children about your feelings can help them identify and name their own feelings
DO NOT PRESS THE PANIC BUTTON
Do not press the panic button
“We don’t see any signs of panic in Britain,” said Professor Wessely. “And I want to shoot everyone who talks about” panic buying. ” We have told people to prepare for insulation, so it is perfectly understandable that they will stock up on the necessary supplies.
“It is also very wrong to tell people not to panic. First, because those who are already in a panic are unlikely to listen. Second, those who are not will wonder if they should. Most importantly, we know that most people do not panic during emergencies. ‘
TRY FUN IN THE ORDINARY
Fun is crucial, says Andrea Chatten. This lockdown period is an opportunity for people to play games together, such as board games, or to play that doesn’t immediately look like games, like planting a vegetable garden in the yard, organizing photo albums, or starting a online course. ‘
She adds, “We can fight the situation, hold on to all of our negative feelings and remain miserable – or accept reality and put our emotional energy into doing things that make us feel happier and better.”
During the closure, which could last for six months, families could try to find new fun in regular activities such as board games (pictured above)
VOLUNTEER TO HELP OTHERS
One of the best ways to get Britain through this blockade is to help each other by doing things like shopping for the elderly, says Professor Wessely.
“It is important to encourage a lot of altruistic behavior, where people help each other in communities, and this is what we are currently seeing.”
Such behavior is believed to increase the morale of volunteers, as well as the people being helped.
Readers can also volunteer to help someone in their community – perhaps by shopping
The idea that doing good benefits the perpetrator seems as old as philosophy itself. Socrates, the Greek philosopher, considered the father of Western philosophy, argued that the virtuous person is a joyful person. In fact, his student Plato calculated that the charitable man is 729 times more joyful than the non-stingy.
More scientifically, several studies have found that people who volunteer to help others live significantly longer than people who don’t volunteer.
A POST-LOCKDOWN VERSION OF YOU
This period of unresolved inactivity can be used as a way to drive positive change, says Andrea Chatten.
“We should use time and space as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, what we value and what we kind of want when we regain our freedom,” she says.
“Maybe you want to work at home more and commute less in the future.
“While we may miss the adrenaline we’re used to, slowing down can do us all more good than we realize and hopefully improve things for the longer term.”
This period of activity change can also be used as a time to make positive changes
HOW TO AVOID QUARANTINE FLASHBACKS
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common danger in periods of lockdown, according to a review by Dr. Samantha Brooks, a psychiatrist at King’s College London.
Specific causes of stress include longer quarantine duration, fear of infection, frustration, boredom, lack of adequate supplies, insufficient information, and financial loss, the report said in The Lancet last month.
Symptoms of PTSD include re-experiencing the trauma from pushy, disturbing memories of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares.
Sufferers can also experience emotional numbness and avoid places, people, and activities that recall the trauma.
The risk of PTSD is particularly high when people are constantly worried about a coronavirus infection, says Sir Simon Wessely, a professor of psychological medicine at King’s College London and president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
“PTSD symptoms especially increase if you are haunted by the fear of infecting or infecting your family,” he says.
In adults, PTSD symptoms can prove to be extremely persistent. In 2009, researchers in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry reported that quarantining three years later was a predictor of PTSD among hospital workers.
Children and adolescents are also at risk for PTSD. For example, a report from Kentucky University in 2013 concluded that lockdowns can quadruple the risk of PTSD in children.
Little research has been done on what can be done to reduce quarantine-related PTSD. Reminding yourself of the reasons for the shutdown, why they’re not your fault and that the situation is not threatening can help, The Lancet reported. This also applies to all strategies described on this page.
Considering others can also protect against PTSD.
Enrico Zanalda, president of the Italian Psychiatry Association, says Italy’s experience shows that: “Relying on altruism by reminding the public of the benefits of quarantine to the wider society can be beneficial.”