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Coronavirus: Ways to Promote Mental Health in Anxiety-Inducing Times

There is a lot of uncertainty about what to expect in the coming days and months regarding the spread of the coronavirus. With large-scale events being canceled and Broadway in NYC "going dark," many are becoming anxious about what it all means and how it will impact themselves and their loved ones. In today's blog, Dr. Ghilain provides information about maintaining one's mental health and coping with the uncertainty in these ever-changing times.

We took the guidance provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and expanded it to include the following recommendations:

- Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage of COVID-19. It is hard not to want to glue yourself to the television or social media, but it is important to take these breaks. Perhaps set a particular time of day (e.g., "I'll spend 15 minutes reviewing the latest articles in the morning each day.") and be sure to choose your sources carefully. Getting facts from reputable sources can reduce panic and hysteria dredged up by popular media.

- Take care of your body. This includes maintaining a healthy sleep/wake schedule, seeking out exercise, stay hydrated and choosing nourishing, well-balanced meals. As always, keeping drug or alcohol use to a minimum is best.

- Find time to unwind. When you feel yourself tensing up, take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. There are many apps (e.g., Insight Timer, Calm) that provide free guided meditations or progressive muscle relaxation options.

- Remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. While it feels like the anxiety will never subside, we know for a fact that it will.

- Maintain as much of a routine as possible. While travel restrictions and working from home are disrupting many peoples' routines, keep those parts of the routine constant when it is possible. Continue to get up everyday around the same time, engage in exercise at home if you are concerned about germs at the gym, and set up a workstation that promotes productivity at home. Work for your typical business hours, then try to do some other activities you enjoy to return to your normal life.

- Connect with others. While "social distancing" is the new buzz phrase and is an essential component of slowing the spread of disease, technology provides us wonderful ways to get connected. Reach out to friends on the phone. Face-Time or Skype family members. Enjoy time with those you love in whatever ways are possible.

- Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. While you may think you are being "strong" on the outside, often our nonverbal cues are more telling. It is okay to share that you are upset by the situation or worried about loved ones. Sometimes talking to a friend or confidant helps to calm worries and keep things in perspective.

- Distract yourself with positive activities. When all else fails, distraction can help your mind calm down and take a "break" from the constant worrying. Watch a funny movie, read a good book, or play a game with family members. As we know, laughter is the best medicine when we are feeling worried or down.

- Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking. Time after time we have seen human beings come together in times of crisis. I believe we will achieve success by working together to combat this virus and supporting each other along the way. That said, one cannot pour from an empty cup, so take care of yourself so you are better able to help others!