In recent weeks, news of coronavirus (COVID-19) has been at the forefront of many of our minds. For some, the news has increased anxiety and concern about personal risk. The first step in managing this type of anxiety is educating yourself. So, here we are going to talk about what the coronavirus is, signs of infection, and prevention recommendations.
What is the Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness – ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
Common signs of infection by a coronavirus include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Manage Coronavirus Workplace Anxiety
- The first line of defence against anxiety is knowledge. Given the huge amount of misinformation that can exist on the internet, workplaces can serve an important role in terms of providing reliable information to employees, from trusted sources. Educate your work team on coronavirus: what it is, what the signs and symptoms are, as well as what the actual calculated risks are.
- Ensure employees are aware of preventative protocols and the importance of seeking medical attention if they get sick.
- Provide access to preventative measures within your work environment – including handwashing stations, tissues, and hand sanitizers.
- Be thoughtful about the need for work-related travel, and associated locations to which employees are being asked to travel to.
- Encourage workers to stay home if they are experiencing symptoms. Whenever possible, try to be accommodating to those who may be able to work remotely.
- Provide accommodations to employees to the point of undue hardship.
7 Tips to Manage Anxiety and Worry
- Educate yourself. On what the virus is, what the signs and symptoms are and the preventative measures.
- Keep perspective. Though it is important to stay informed it is also important to keep perspective. Do not spend too much time checking the news channels. Remember to also spend time on other important and positive things in your life.
- Don’t inflate the risk. When something’s new and there are unknowns about it, it can seem very scary. This is our brain’s normal reaction to a threat (our fight or flight response) and considering the amount of attention a new threat like this gets, it’s easy for the risk to be inflated. Take the time to consider the actual risk to you.
- Take precautions. Once you’ve determined what the recommended precautions are, incorporate those into your regular routine. Right now, the recommendations are typical flu protocols: wash your hands regularly with soap and water; stay home if you feel sick; avoid those who are presenting with flu-like symptoms; and, maintain regular health routines like sleeping enough, eating healthy and exercising.
- Stay connected. Having a support network of people to talk to when you’re feeling anxious can help to keep you grounded and remind you to keep the perspective you need.
- Use your coping skills. If you experience anxiety in other areas of your life remember to engage in the practices that help manage your anxiety levels, for example, engaging in regular mindfulness practice.
- Seek extra help. If you’re still struggling with your anxiety or experiencing panic that is affecting your ability to maintain your regular activities, you may consider seeking additional support.
How to Manage Anxiety about COVID-19 that becomes Overwhelming and Turns into Panic
There are a number of things that can help prevent or reduce the chances of having a panic attack. These include the following:
- Practice mindful breathing exercises every day.
- Regular exercise helps to manage stress levels, release tension, improve mood and boost confidence.
- Eat regular meals to stabilize your blood sugar levels.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking – these can make panic attacks worse.
- Psychological therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can identify and change the negative thought patterns. It’s these thought patterns that are feeding your panic attacks.
Talking with Children about Public Health Emergencies
- First, it’s important to ensure the conversations are age-appropriate. The types of frank conversations we can have with high school and university-aged children are not the same as the conversations we’d have with those pre-school or elementary-aged.
- When it comes to younger children, don’t overshare and burden them with information or worries. But do answer the questions they ask. Be honest but conscious of age and learning level (the same way you might with answering questions about where babies come from).
- Children are curious and want to learn about the world around them so they are bound to ask questions. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you will find out. Or depending on the nature of the question and the age of the child consider researching the answer together. Even though children are curious, feeling secure and safe is important to their psychological well-being. Be honest but always attempt to reassure them of their safety.
- Finally, help educate children about their health and how to be conscious of staying healthy and preventing diseases. Identifying actionable things we can do individually to keep ourselves safe and healthy can help all of us manage anxiety, fear, and helplessness. This is also true for children regardless of whether or not they are able to accurately identify these emotions. Make sure these things are; a) something that is within their control, b) something they can do on their own or mostly on their own, c) realistic and attainable.