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Updated: Apr 19, 2020

The situation we are currently in is not something we have been able to experience in our past.  A unique worldwide situation which is caused by new corona virus has led us to challenge with the fear, tension, uncertainty and even anxiety and depression, mostly because of provided (self)isolation as a provision in preservation of our health and health of our families. Health-care systems, the economy, are in the front of the threatening breakdown. I spent lot of my time in the Reading the texts of many my colleagues, so I came up with the idea to write a text that, I hope, will encourage many of you to fight with this situation, which requires huge comprehension and adaptation.

Concern for our health and uncertainty of our future worries all of us. Although we try to look at the situation positively and not lose our hope, out fears, worry and (self)isolation can led to depression to cope us. The current situation can also be observed as a challenge, which in psychology defined as a ''normal'' reaction to new unknown and potentially dangerous situation that throw us out of our state of mental and psychosocial equilibrium and require our adaptation. Regarding that, anxiety, mood alterations, tension and fear are physiological reactions in present abnormal circumstances. Changes in our mood, motivation, loss of happiness, sleeping and diet patterns are also expected nowadays. Uncertainty due to the expanding pandemic and legitimate (self)isolation are significant risk in the maintenance of our mental health.

It is very important to remember that psychological challenge is neither disease nor even a mental disorder. 

The most important thing is to understand that our reactions are completely physiological and that any mental crisis will get over. Every crisis is stressful, but, it does not necessarily mean that it will always have a negative outcome. 

How to maintain your mental health?

  1. Establish your everyday routine - This is the first and key point. Emergency gives us a feeling of instability, loss of control and disorientation. If we design our own daily activities, we will feel a sense of security, (self)control and self-worth. Make a plan on a daily or weekly basis, but not fixing absolutely on the routine, and live some space for modifications in accordance to current needs and feelings.

  2. Control the information that comes to you - We are not absolutely aware of the effect that information produces in our brain. Learn to limit and control the amount of information you track. Receiving new information is constant and can create addiction, which subconsciously forces us to seek for new information. Consequently, this can cause constant stress, because the feeling of possessing of all information creates the illusion that we have everything under our control. It is enough to inform yourself up to twice a day. Avoid tracking information immediately after waking up or going to sleep, because we are most vulnerable to emotionally mingling with the new information in this time periods. Limit yourself the time you spend in seeking for new information.

  3. Take care about your health, body and hygiene - Follow the expert's recommendations and be physically active as it is possible (there are plenty of explanations and tutorial on the internet about light exercises at home). Physical activity is scientifically proved way for relieving accumulated stress. Also, nutrition is unremarkable factor in health maintenance, so balanced diet possess a positive effect on our mental health. 

  4. Do not be socially distant, but socially connected – In the basis of our mind is to social individua. Contacts and communication are very important to us, and it is mandatory to keep in touch with your loved ones. Using telecommunicating technology in the case of the excess of time we now have, try to spend your time to renew connection with those people you have never been able to.

  5. Help and support others – In this pandemic situation, It is not uncommon that there is an increased sense of solidarity and empathy, as well as desire to connect with people in a similar situation. So, we can feel and what our loved ones need, whether it is assistance in shopping, bills paying, or, most important, talking with them. This is the most important with those who are older. By helping others, we help ourselves. We make the situation easier, remove the focus from worry and problems, and in return get a sense of satisfaction and connection.

  6. Reduce fear of the unknown - The Corona virus is partially unknown and threatening for us, so it is able to trigger in us all of above-mentioned feelings. If you notice that your thoughts are heading towards a catastrophe or worst-case scenario, be sure that is consequence of anxiety. In such a situation, it is need to keep you calm and find the support in your environment, psychotherapist, physical activity or relaxation techniques. Try to contemplate uncertainty as an integral part of life instead of an enemy that must be eliminated.

  7. Try to estimate the risk correctly – The information about the mortality and danger speeding, translated into a danger assessment of a situation, can be confusing and may therefore cause feelings of imminent danger, or, on the contrary, may cause a minimization of imminent danger feelings and an indifferent attitude towards the situation. So, do not be preoccupied with tracking for new information. 

  8. Accept and understand current state of your emotions - As we said at the beginning of this guide, it is absolutely expected that we do not feel completely good. It is important not to set unrealistic goals and expectations for yourself. The most important thing is to adapt yourself day by day. Listen your emotions, make the space for them, even if they are negative. Don't let them to control you, because all of those emotions are temporary, come and go. 

  9. Fight with your Negative Emotions – In the basis in all of us is not to have the same tolerance, and the tolerance threshold for negative emotions is not particularly high in all of us. You can fight with your negative emotions through a different daily activity - play, physical activity, creativity, online courses, etc. And, in the summary, while it may seem funny or silly to you, believe that it works: crying, yelling into a pillow, kicking pillows and squeezing a soaked towel. That are some of the improvised techniques for relieving of tension and stress.

  10. At the end, remember one thing: THIS WILL GO AWAY!!! Our nowadays situation is some kind of race, with an invisible competitor, but it's a race with a certain end! Try to focus yourself to the momentary situation what you can control and influence on it.  Each of us is fight with this in such an individual manner. Listen to your emotions and your needs!

Marija Šutulović

Clinical Psychologist, M.D.

Advisor to the IPO President for the prevention of peer and domestic violence

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