By Wilma Bedford
There are some signs that indicate whether you or a family member are experiencing mental health issues: fear and anxiety about your own physical wellbeing, changes in you sleeping and eating patterns, trouble concentrating or falling asleep, chronic health problems that worsen, withdrawal from the rest of the family. Fear is a debilitating emotion that leads to impulsiveness, panic, a feeling that you are losing emotional control, and eventually manifestation of these emotions in a variety of physical illnesses.
Acknowledge your feelings. It is normal to be anxious and fearful under these circumstances. Let your children verbalise their fears and let them also know it is normal to feel this way; fear is nature’s warning instrument that there is danger and that we have to protect ourselves. Let them know that they are safe inside the home. Try to focus on positive thinking and a sense of hope. Look for opportunities to focus on stories regarding people who contracted the virus and recovered. Put the case in perspective, and also reassure your family. By adhering to the recommended and set rules, the virus can be combated and the family kept safe.
Talk to your children and protect them against Coronavirus hysteria. Listen to their fears and give them your attention and support. Provide them with all the facts and make them aware of all the fake news that also abounds. Facts reduce stress. Restrict watching TV news to one hour per day and only use reliable news channels, whether on TV or the internet. Now is a golden opportunity to make your children aware of fake news and harmful colluding theories and to review facts rationally. Share with them how you yourself handle the stress and keep yourself healthy mentally.
Let your family know what your emergency plan is if anyone should fall ill. Allay fears that put the illness in perspective: fewer deaths occur in children and young people, that many people recover from the virus and if everyone in the family abide by the rules, the emergency plan will probably not be necessary. Your children may be worried about what the future might hold if both parents should die. Assure them that such a scenario is improbable but that a guardian has been appointed who will take care of them.
Provide stressed family members with distractions. Jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, sudoku, board games, art and garden projects or a virtual tour through a world-famous art, aeroplane or fashion museum could make a world of difference to cultivate mental health. Your children will also miss their friends and events such as school outings which probably will not take place in the near future. Let your children divide these problems into two categories and decide themselves what they can or cannot do about them and let them reflect on alternatives, for example watching a movie at the same time on TV or Netflix and discussing it later.
Create a structure and a daily routine in your home; it provides your children with security. There will of course be free moments. Make it clear that although sleeping later in the mornings will be allowed, the rest of the day may not be spent on watching TV. Let your children create a schedule in which time is set aside for school work with a break, time for exercise, time to perform domestic chores and time for other recreation and hobbies. This schedule must take the entire family’s needs into account and be particularly considerate with regard to a parent who is working from a home-office.
This is an unknown and historic era being entered. A family project could be that every member of the household writes a daily or weekly journal about how he/she experiences and handles stress. At the end of the crisis or at a later opportunity, family members can share their experiences with one another and from the journal entries also see how they grew mentally and handled the crisis.
Caring for someone gives life meaning. Let your children find ways of caring for others; in so doing they will also feel good about themselves. It could range from contacting an older relative at a fixed time even if this is not something they would normally do, or contacting a school friend, or even making a parent a cup of coffee.
Keep yourself and your family mentally healthy by also maintaining contact with your church group, youth ministering group and prayer circles, and provide your family with spiritual guidance.
Remain physically healthy by eating healthily and exercising; even if your exercise space might be restricted, stretch exercises can still be possible.
How to Protect your Mental health During the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Nazish, N. March 2020. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com
Protecting your Mental Health during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Calliope-Holingue, M. Covid School of Public Health. John Hopkins. http://www.jhsph.edu