Fundación ABC

How to preserve your mental health in the COVID-19 pandemic

Salud mental

If you are experiencing stress, anxiety or depression, contact our specialists at the following help line

Translation by Mariana Rodríguez-Botello Fierro

Due to the constant news and generation of information arising from the pandemic in Mexico and in great part of the world, many people are beginning to feel anxiety or even panic. We know that it is a completely normal situation, however, it is important that we stay alert to identify and recognize the feelings or emotions that we are experiencing and thus, be able to act in time and solve them.

As adults and parents it is important for us to realize that if we are nervous, anxious or if we have any of the symptoms that we will describe below, children will react in the same way that we do, therefore, it is recommended that we observe our behavior and that of the kids at home.

At Centro Médico ABC we care about your health and with the advice of specialists Dr. David Szydlo and Dr. Janet Shein Szydlo, we prepared the following guide with 12 steps to protect our mental health and our family’s mental health.

12 steps to protect our own and our family’s mental health

1. Acknowledge your feelings

The first step to recover is knowing what is happening to you and noticing the symptoms.

    • Hypothymia: Depressed, sad, distressed mood, without becoming clinically diagnosable depression.
    • Anxiety: State of high stress, constant worries, nervousness, irritability, not being able to sleep (does not refer to anxiety disorder, but anxiety as a symptom).
    • Irritability: Hostile, not very receptive to criticism, hard to comfort, etc.
    • Blunted affect: Limited range of emotional expression; does not respond adequately to environmental stimulation.
    • Anger: Angry and exaggerated reaction to a situation that is valued as negative.

Manifestations of anxiety in children

What we have to recognize is: irritability, emotional outburst (tantrum), apathy to carry out the things they normally do, insomnia, lack of appetite, difficulty concentrating, that is, observe what they are communicating, even if they do not say it in words, since, surely, the situation is affecting them as well as adults.

If you are anxious, your children will be too.

Think of your problems as a challenge, not a threat

Your thoughts or feelings are the ones that sabotage your stability, therefore, do not believe everything you think since your thoughts are not statements or facts. A useful technique is to repeat to yourself that what you are feeling arises from your concern.

3. Use a muscle relaxation or breathing technique

Control your breathing consciously, it will help you take control of your emotions. Do the following:

  • Inhale slowly raising your chest as you count to 10.
  • Keep the air inside your lungs for another 10 seconds.
  • Exhale, repeating the count again.
  • Once you are relaxed, think of pleasant and reassuring images.

Relax your muscles

  • Relax by using controlled breathing.
  • Select a muscle and tighten it gently.
  • Hold the tension for 10 seconds.
  • Relax the muscle and repeat again.

4. Divert your attention from the problem

Limit the amount of time you spend reading or looking at things that don't make you feel better, be selective about what you read, or perhaps choose a specific time to read news.

Learn not to focus your attention all the time on the problem, stay alert, but also rest and save resources when nothing can be done.

If you find some social media posts too overwhelming, hide them and silence certain WhatsApp groups.

5. Avoid substances with activating effect

Avoid consuming alcohol in excess or some other psychoactive substances as this can be totally counterproductive, increasing the feeling or making it worse.

6. Perform relaxing activities that you like

These activities will depend on your personal preferences, such as working on a new project, reading the book you've been wanting to read, playing video games, if you are a person who likes art practice painting, playing a musical instrument, watch a virtual museum tour, etc. Try to balance having a routine and making sure each day is a little different.

7. Follow a routine

Something important about living together is to respect each other’s space and time. Living together does not mean that we all have the same tasks and objectives.

Since many of us are working from home we recommend that you follow a routine, for example:

  • Get up at 8:00 in the morning
  • Take a shower
  • Get ready and organize personally
  • Eat breakfast
  • I respect my work schedule
  • I take a couple of hours for lunch and rest
  • I return to activities in an organized routine

8. Keep in touch with your family

Stay connected with your loved ones through social media, video conferences and phone calls. Talk about other topics other than the coronavirus.

9. Sleep at your usual hours

10. Physical health and exercise

An enemy of isolation is inactivity, planning the tasks to be carried out every day is key, although many of them may be at home or if you are an athlete look for an exercise routine to practice at home.

11. Consulta y comparte fuentes oficiales

The correct use of information is essential, make sure that your opinions are not influenced by bad information that circulates on the internet.

We share with you some official sources of information:

Consult only the necessary information to stay updated on the pandemic and avoid obsessing over all the published material.

It is important that, as parents, you identify the best time to see news, discuss the topic, etc. try to watch what you talk about in front of the children; there are important differences in how they react depending on their age. The most important thing is not to generate anguish but to assume a supporting role for them and understand what they are concerned about.

12. Seek professional help

Finally, if the indications and techniques that we have shared with you are not enough and you continue with problems of stress, anxiety or depression, you can call our specialists at Centro Médico ABC at the following help line 55 8526 4363

Isolation and children

  1. Talk to your children taking into account their age
  2. Recognize and manage your anxiety
  3. Establish a routine with your children
  4. Keep in touch with your loved ones

Psychologist Manuela Molina produced a short book for children between 2 and 7 years old with the purpose of anticipating and accompanying the emotional world of children against COVID-19 virus. This resource does not seek to be a source of scientific information but rather a tool based on fantasy. She recommends printing it so that children can draw their emotion and have it at home to read it repeatedly.

“Remember that emotions are processed through repetitive play and stories read multiple times. Share the COVIBOOK with your community and relieve children’s anxiety around the world"

With love, Manuela Molina - the author

Help line

If you are experiencing stress, anxiety or depression, contact our specialists at the following help line

55 8526 4363

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