Posted by : Posted on : 17-Mar-2020

Coping with the stress occasioned by the threat of  coronavirus

I followed the stories and wrote about the bad weather that affected the Solomon Islands most recently, tragically causing loss of life at Lambi, damage to roads, bridges, food gardens and extensive flooding in both Guadalcanal and Malaita.

It cannot have been easy to cope with the storm damage in the sense they were tangible threats and losses, which no doubt, caused much anxiety and worry for the future over food security and the costs that will be needed to rebuild damaged homes and physical structures such as roads and bridges.

I read an article today written by female academics at Bond University in Australia and published in the ‘Conversation’ and circulated by ‘Your Life Choices’ an on- line paper for Australian seniors.

The article began by comparing the recent bush fire tragedy in Australia to tangible causes as opposed to intangible ones, such as the coronavirus epidemic now posing a global risk.

I would like to share the contents of the article because it talks about the stress coronavirus is causing many, and I am sure the same is being played out in the Solomon Islands, but the article also mentions some ways such stress might be better coped with.

Quoting the article in full, it read:

“Epidemics are different. A novel epidemic is unknown, evolving and a global risk.

“We are faced with a variety of information (and misinformation) online. Guidelines contradict each other, different states have different approaches, and experts disagree.

 “Meanwhile, infection rates climb as economies fall.

 “While some people may be more susceptible to becoming seriously ill with the coronavirus than others, none of us are immune to the pervading sense of anxiety that has taken hold around the world.

“But there are some things we can keep in mind, and some practical steps we can take, to keep coronavirus-related anxiety under control.

 “There’s an ugly side to ways we can deal with the stress of an unknown enemy like the coronavirus.

 “Some people blame potential carriers for their own illnesses. This is not helpful.

 “We also seek to manage our anxiety by trying to prepare ourselves and our families for the possibility of isolation or quarantine.

“While this is reasonable to a degree, practices like stockpiling toilet paper and other goods can feed, rather than relieve, anxiety. Empty supermarket shelves can create panic, and further disadvantage people who might be living from week to week.

“Epidemics isolate us from each other physically too, and this will only happen more and more.

“We can take heart in knowing many people will develop only mild disease from the coronavirus.

“There are of course vulnerable members of our community: those with compromised immune systems due to illness or age. We need to protect these people as a community by creating safe spaces for them to live, work and access health care, rather than fostering panic.

“Our greatest asset lies in our own bodies. We may not understand how to best protect ourselves, but our bodies are experienced managers of novel immune challenges, and they will manage the risk as effectively as they can.

“Ultimately, our best chance at surviving this virus relies on nurturing our bodies: avoiding exposure through hand-washing and isolation where appropriate, eating well, exercising, managing chronic illnesses, and getting enough sleep.

 “The anxiety a pandemic generates is inevitable. At the end of the day, we all need to learn to live with a degree of risk we can’t avoid.

 “The World Health Organisation has developed some practical tips for dealing the stress of this outbreak. Here are a few of them:

- accept that it’s normal to feel sad, stressed, confused, scared or angry during an outbreak

- find ways to talk about how you feel with others, especially if you are in quarantine

- remember to keep an eye out for your children during this time, and for loved ones who already have mental illness. They may need help dealing with this added anxiety

- if you feel overwhelmed, seek support from a health professional

- don’t use smoking, alcohol or other drugs to deal with your emotions. Keep your body as healthy as possible by eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep

- limit worry by limiting media exposure to a few trusted sources, and

- draw on skills you have used in the past that have helped you to get through difficult times.”

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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