In these trying times, we must be mindful of our emotional health and take steps to avoid anxiety.
Foremost, we must keep our friends and families physically safe by following guidelines on hand-washing and social distancing during the Coronavirus pandemic. Even as we pray for and offer support to those directly affected by the virus, we need to develop strategies for coping with the anxiety of our new way of living.
Our new normal feels anything but; many are stressed out, if not overwhelmed. Human beings are social creatures - distancing from one another is not in our nature, even for introverts. The isolation can heighten underlying depression. But physical distancing doesn't have to mean social or emotional distancing. Thankfully, we live in an era where we can work and socialize remotely.
Keep up with family and friends through social media – we all need encouragement right now. If you're isolating with your family, be mindful of the opportunity to be together.
Pay attention to what you can control and try to not to fixate on what you can't. Public health experts have noted that the virus – not humans – will determine the timeline of quarantine, so there's no sense fretting about upended plans and routines. Take an exercise class online or do a remote tour of someplace you've always wanted to see.
Try to keep a routine and exercise 30 minutes daily. I used to go to the gym six days a week, now I do Zumba online. It helps! Household items – like milk jugs - can be converted into weights. Dust off that basement gym or get out in nature and enjoy a walk.
It's important to stay informed, but limit your media consumption. Nix the endless loop of cable news and don't dwell on the day's statistics or the ups and downs of the stock market. Instead, delve into that novel you've always wanted to read or tackle that NY Times crossword you've never had time to finish. We're all permitted – actually encouraged – to look for pleasant distractions as we're advised to stay home for now if possible.
Make sure your medicine cabinet has the essentials. Fill your prescriptions – have a 90-day supply if possible – and stock up on over-the-counter staples such as acetaminophen, cold and cough medicine, allergy medications and an anti-diarrheal or other remedies for upset stomach. Make sure your first-aid kit includes bandages and antibiotic cream and have lots of fluids on hand, including replenishment drinks like Pedialyte or Gatorade.
If you have symptoms call your healthcare provider – telemedicine is being used more frequently to limit unnecessary trips and exposure to the virus.
The most important thing is to stay calm. Take solace that you’re not alone, the virus has affected most of the world. One of the beauties of humans is that our best side can come out during crisis. We'll get through this.
Robert O.A. Green, MD, is a primary care provider and is board-certified in family medicine. He specializes in caring for people from adolescence through adulthood at his office in Rutherford. Dr. Green is currently offering telemedicine appointments and can be reached at 201-537-0377.