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Combating Covid-19: Keep 'cabin fever' at bay

Dr Saliha Afridi, clinical psychologist and managing director, The Lighthouse Arabia
Filed on April 10, 2020

There are ways to re-establish a sense of control in your life

COVID-19 has everyone feeling anxious, worried, and overwhelmed. Each day seems to bring new updates, and people are having to rethink their daily routines accordingly. So, it's okay to be feeling out of control, overwhelmed, anxious, and scared. These are all very normal during such a crisis. With the most recent announcement of a 24-hour 'stay home' mandate, many people have reported feeling 'cabin fever' and, with it, feelings of being trapped, agitated, restless, sad, or angry. But there are things you can do to re-establish a sense of calm and control back in your life.

1. Be mindful of the story you are telling yourself. The words we use tell our story and create our mindset. When we hear or use words like 'social distancing', 'lockdown' or 'self-isolation,' we are being emotionally triggered because we are social beings that seek connection. The truth is that although you might be living alone, in the age of connectivity, we are far from being isolated.

2. Connect with positivity. Yes, Covid-19 is contagious, but so are fear and anxiety. If your friends and family are constantly talking about negative things and keeping their conversations very COVID-19 specific, you may want to have some 'rules for engagement'. You can tell them you would only like to talk about positive things and things that will help all of you go through this period with the most uplifting mindset. Make a point to join communities and different events that feed your mind, body, and soul.

3. Make room for difficult feelings. One of the biggest issues with difficult feelings is that people want to get rid of them. They don't want to feel anxious or sad, but the more they resist those emotions, the more they persist. Remember, if you have a thought that triggers an emotion, if you pause and pay attention to the emotion, it only lasts 90 seconds. So next time you feel sad, just feel the emotion, soften into it, and breathe it out and get on to doing the next thing. Do not feed the story that feeds the emotion.

4. Have a routine. The people who will struggle the most are the ones who are drifting from day to day. They feel unproductive, useless, and depressed. Routine is the antidote to anxiety and feeling displaced. Routines anchor you in a time and a place, give you things to do every day, and help you stay engaged with the day. Make sure you include all your priorities in your day - such as physical exercise, connecting with family, work productivity, children's schooling and mental and emotional self-care.

5. Do a self-check-in every day. It's important to check in with yourself and ask yourself how you're feeling today, what you need to do to care for yourself today, or where you need support. Doing these types of check-ins will keep your finger on your emotional and mental health pulse. Do not be afraid to name the difficult feelings that are coming up for you. This is not an easy time for anyone. And remember, when you name the feelings, you tame the feelings. It's when we ignore them or get too busy doing other things that emotions can get out of hand or take us by surprise.

6. Have a safe place outside of you and inside of you. Make a place in your home where you can sit in silence. Decorate it in such a way that it will be soothing and comforting. Make sure to take all five senses into consideration when doing so. Also, make a place in your mind that you can visit when you close your eyes. Allow the emotions to run through you as you engage all five senses while doing so. It could be a beach, a spa or your grandmother's home - but make sure to pick a place that evokes soothing and comforting emotions. You might feel sad and nostalgic once you bring yourself to the present moment; however, know that you can visit your mental safe place anytime you want.


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