These are challenging times, with new information about the novel coronavirus popping up everywhere you look and changing by the hour. It can be confusing, overwhelming, and most of all, anxiety-inducing. While this is the type of scenario that many of you have been preparing for, it’s also rather unforeseen.
First of all: Do not panic. There’s really no reason to, and it won’t help anyway. Instead, you need to make wise decisions and learn to manage your anxiety. The following is a simple guide on how to stay safe and healthy (both mentally and physically), as well as what to do if you think you’ve been infected.
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Although this article focuses on the coronavirus pandemic, these tips apply to any major disaster where you’re forced to stay home and ride it out.
Managing Anxiety During A Disaster
Step Away From Screens
One of the things that negatively impacts our immune system is stress. Now is not the time to “doom surf” the internet, reading every new story that comes out about the virus.
Trust me, I’ve been there, and it is extremely bad for your mental and physical health. Instead, make a list of projects or activities you haven’t had time for.
Get your garden prepped, read a book, pick up a knitting project, or get on NextDoor and do a seed swap with your neighbors (be sure to keep social distancing guidelines in mind). Find something productive or soothing to do that does not involve being online.
Understand the Numbers
Yes, the reality is that many people are likely to catch COVID-19. For the vast majority of us who catch it, it will be like a mild flu or cold. The younger and healthier you are, the less likely you will have severe symptoms. The reason this virus is a big deal is that it is new to humans and we have no natural resistance to it, and it specifically attacks the respiratory system.
We are not practicing social distancing because we are avoiding getting sick and dying! We are doing this to slow the spread of the virus because there are a limited number of hospital beds for those who will require critical care.
Consider that you are taking one for the team, and remember that even if you are young and healthy, many others are not.
If you need a distraction, now is a great time to watch funny animal videos, kick back and watch lighthearted comedies, or play fun games with your friends or family in person (if you are isolating together) or online. Laughter is good for your immune system and will help you deal with your anxiety.
Protecting Yourself and Your Family
While you definitely do not need to stock up on face masks and toilet paper, now is a good time to hunker down. Hopefully, you have a good stash of rice and beans and other emergency foods. Grocery stores are filled with panic-buyers, and you’ll be better off shopping once the initial panic has worn off.
When you do shop, don’t hoard items. Focus on buying things that store well or on ingredients for things you’ve dreamed of cooking but never had time for. Cook huge batches to share with neighbors and to freeze for later.
As you’ve heard, wash your hands frequently, and do not touch your face. If you cannot wash your hands, use hand sanitizer and then wash your hands when you can.
If you can’t find any hand sanitizer in the stores, you can make your own. Carry sanitizing wipes wherever you go (if you must go out), and wipe every surface you come into contact with.
Door handles, gas pumps, shopping carts—wipe all of these things before you touch them. If you can’t find sanitizing wipes, make your own (I’ve included a recipe here). Don’t forget to clean your phone regularly.
And whatever you do, avoid flushing wipes and paper towels down toilets – this can cause serious clogs in the system.
Maintain Your Distance
Now is not the time for handshakes or hugs. Practice elbow taps and jazz hands, but avoid unnecessary contact as much as possible. If you must go into a public place, stay at least six feet away from people, and cook at home for the time being.
Many people (including you) may be struggling right now with anxiety, depression, and just the boredom of being restricted to home. Now is a perfect time to use technology to connect with friends and family. There are so many different ways that people are finding to be together virtually, from cocktail hours on Zoom to virtual dance parties.
Find your people and make sure everyone is okay. If you have elderly or immunocompromised neighbors, reach out to see if you can help them with shopping so that they don’t have to leave the house.
Get Some Exercise
Don’t forget to move your body and stay healthy. There are so many different free offerings online right now, from yoga to CrossFit. Find a resource you like and use it.
You can still work in the garden, take long walks, or go for a run. If you find yourself getting overly anxious, step outside, move your body, take deep breaths and try to appreciate the present moment.
What to Do if You Get Sick
First, make sure you know the symptoms of COVID-19 as opposed to seasonal allergies, a cold, or the flu. The vast majority of people who are infected will have mild symptoms, but symptoms can escalate quickly—pay attention to your body.
Practice Extreme Sanitation
If you are sick, make sure that you are practicing extreme sanitation at home. Sneeze into your elbow, wipe down any surfaces you touch, and self-quarantine to a room in the house that is not entered by anyone else.
Know Which Medications to Take
While all of the immune-boosting supplements you already take are going to be helpful in prevention, there is some speculation about elderberry syrup being unsafe to take if you have COVID-19.
However, standard supplements like zinc, Vitamin C and especially Vitamin D. Currently, there are questions about the safety of taking ibuprofen for COVID-19 fever, and the general recommendation is to take acetaminophen instead.
And as with any flu, you need to keep yourself hydrated. I recommend getting some Gatorade powder. You also want to keep your lungs from getting too dry. Try using a humidifier to help with the cough and sore throat. (Here’s why.)
If you are sick or suspect you may be sick, isolate yourself for 14 days. Do not go to the emergency room or doctor unless your symptoms are extreme, and call ahead so that they are ready for you.
These are strange times, and everyone’s a little on edge. Be kind to one another, and take good care of yourself. Do not allow yourself to be overwhelmed by fear. Take one day at a time and remember that this is temporary.
We’re going to get through this together, even if we have to do it apart.
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