How To Stay Resilient And Mentally Healthy During The Coronavirus Outbreak

Shutdowns. Social and physical isolation. Quarantines.

Because of the coronavirus, we're living in stressful — and unprecedented — times, forced to change our daily lives in isolating and anxiety-producing ways.

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"Many different fears right now are converging all at once on people in a way that is really overwhelming, and confusing and hard to sort out," Jonathan Kanter, director of the Center for the Science of Social Connection at the University of Washington, told On Point's Meghna Chakrabarti.

And it's not just the coronavirus we're afraid of. It's also the changes the coronavirus is causing, Kanter says.

"The fears of being confined, being isolated, of being alone, of losing our routines, of losing our normal sources of social contact," he says.

It's a lot. But there are ways for us to deal with our stressors. Dr. Elissa Epel has some tips.

'Try to connect with people': Ideas for managing anxiety during the coronavirus outbreak

On staying positive

Dr. Elissa Epel: "I think it's so important for us to see our faces and see when we smile. I'm on the phone every day about COVID coping calls for our university, our psychiatry department. And it's very serious. And when someone makes a joke, it's such a relief to see their face on Zoom, laughing. It makes me laugh. It's just instant relief. So the quick answer is ... use this science for good. Spread smiles when you can, spread calm when you can."

On going outside

Dr. Elissa Epel: "My dog walk has become one of my most sacred times of the day. To get into green areas and just see dogs play. Luckily, we think dogs don't transmit it. And so, you know, seeing children play, really brings this joy and makes us laugh. So right now, I'm really using puppy play."

On adapting to changes

Dr. Elissa Epel: "Health behaviors, and amp them up if you can. Sleep will be disturbed for a bit. Try to not panic about that. We are all going through this together."

On breathing and meditation 

Dr. Elissa Epel: "You always have your breaths. And you can be with it. You can slow it. And it changes your mental state immediately. At UCSF, we're going to be distributing links to these meditations apps. Many of these companies are making them free to us and they really do give our bodies a break. So I recommend that people try one."

And one last note of encouragement from Jonathan Kanter ...

Jonathan Kanter: "We can find ways to notice our tendency to distrust others, sort of breathe into that gently and then instead do the opposite. Try to connect with people."

This article originally appeared on WBUR.


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