Suddenly, because of the coronavirus, a lot of things are changing in the world. From the small things such as the call to stay at home as a way of social distancing, to the big ones far too many to mention and may even be too scary to think about. And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Trying to keep up living as things used to be seems like a crazy thing to do while times are like this, and it might make you start feeling like things might just take a turn for the worse for you, as well.
Rest assured that you’re never alone, said Dr. Robert Buenaventura, who talked about managing your anxieties through this rough time at the recently held webinar "Coping with COVID-19." (The People Management Association of the Philippines organized the talk.)
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Buenaventura, a psychiatrist with the UERM Hospital and a Life Fellow of the Philippine Psychiatric Association, opened his talk by first defining some important terms—worry and stress. "When you say that we’re worried, this is when the mind dwells on repetitive negative thoughts,” he said. “Stress, on the other hand, refers to the body’s physical responses.” Some ways you feel it include an elevated heart rate, nausea and dizziness, and aches and pains in your body, among other symptoms. Stress isn’t entirely negative, however, as Dr. Buenaventura mentioned that “Stressors can be positive, which we call eustress, like a job promotion; or negative, which we call distress, like the loss of a job.”
A combination of worry in your mind and stress in your body comes together to create what we know as anxiety, Dr. Buenaventura said. Anxiety, he clued in, is a “vague, pervasive feeling of uneasiness over something that one does not know about.”
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Dr. Buenaventura said feeling anxious is perfectly normal, but what matters is coping with this feeling. “To cope,” he said, “is to deal effectively with a challenge or problem. It refers to a set of behaviors or a mindset that allows an individual to function adequately.” And how do we do just that? Dr. Buenaventura gave these practical tips!
1. Practice self-care
“We need to eat right, hydrate, sleep well, exercise, have proper hygiene, and take our medicines.”
2. No to TMI
“One of our sources of anxiety would be the overwhelming amount of information available right now,” Buenaventura stressed. How do we remedy this? Read only timely and accurate information from reliable and credible sources. “Just focus and be selective. Look at how timely these are, and make sure that these are from accurate and credible sources, like the World Health Organization, or official government channels.” Dr. Buenaventura also suggested limiting your exposure to the news, checking it three or four times a day, at most, to keep from getting overwhelmed by it.
3. Reach out to family and friends
If you're feeling lonely and isolated right now, chances are that your loved ones are feeling the same way, too. "Technology plays a crucial role in this situation. Reach out and catch up with your loved ones!" Dr. Buenaventura said. He also recommended opening up to people that you trust, and being willing to ask for help when you need it.
4. Do enjoyable activities, hobbies, and crafts
"You don't have to think of something very elaborate. You can do something simple that you already enjoy!" said Dr. Buenaventura. So, why not listen to your favorite music, read a good book, or dance in your room?
5. Mind over matter
Think positive. Act on things one can control. Make decisions. Plan. Draw up a schedule. "One of the problems is the feeling of being powerless, that we can't control the situation," Dr. Buenaventura said. "Doing things that we can control, drawing up plans, and doing things that we can manage on our own can help remedy these feelings."
6. Help yourself by helping others
Donating and volunteering in any way can do wonders for the soul, Dr. Buenaventura said. "We can do it for our self-worth, and also to minize our feelings of being helpless. Let's let our Bayanihan spirit come forth!"
7. Increase self-awareness
Meditation and mindfulness, "the psychological proess of bringing one's attention to things happening at the present without judgement," are among the main ways you can do this, said Dr. Buenaventura. Simply sitting in a quiet room and focusing on your breathing without dwelling for too long on your passing thoughts should be enough to exercise this!
Times like these, no one can blame you for feeling conscious and on-edge about your health, but Dr. Buenaventura stressed the importance of remembering that "there's no health without mental health!" Watching your health also means taking care of yourself mentally, and these are only a handful of ways that you can do so.
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If you're feeling isolated and there's no one that you can connect with, Dr. Buenaventura recommends getting in touch with these organizations:
National Center for Mental Health Crisis Hotline:
DOH Covid-19 Emergency Hotline:
02-894-26843 and 1555
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