9 simple steps to stay calm during times of uncertainty, according to a GP
“When information overload is chronic, we end up living in a state of unresolved stress and anxiety...”
And although the continued spread of the coronavirus has led to confusion, concerned, and even panic, we should be able to stay safe both physically and mentally.
According to GP and Virgin Media's in house doctor Dr Sinead Bernie, there are a whole host of simple steps that you can take to ensure that you don't succumb to stress during these unprecedented times.
1. Get the right information
First things first - make sure that the things you're concerned about are actually worth being concerned about.
Get the facts, don't fall victim to misinformation, and figure out how you feel once you're entirely caught up on the current situation.
"No one wants to be less informed, they want to be better informed," says Dr Bernie.
"Look to reputable websites for information and updates like www.hse.ie and not from social media feeds."
2. Self care
"Like all situations in life, you need to take care of yourself first," says Dr Bernie.
"You are then in a much better position to help those around you. Think of it like being on a flight and that you should always tend to your own mask first."
It might be the last thing you want to do, but exercise is actually the free drug without any side effects.
"We have been advised that it is ok to go walking outside," says Dr Bernie.
"Get out in the open fresh air while practising social distancing and good hand hygiene. Exercise is the treatment of choice for mild to moderate anxiety. I always recommend it to my patients. Walking is the great equaliser, You can do it into your 90s."
4. Talk to someone
Whether about your concerns to a best friend, a spouse or a parent, you should always talk to somebody about what's on your mind.
According to Dr Bernie, this can sometimes be as effective as attending a counsellor or psychologist.
"When we bottle things up, our worries can seem out of proportion," she says. "Use social media for this purpose, reach out on FaceTime or Skype but stay connected."
Dr Sinead Bernie
5. Make sure you're getting enough sleep
An obvious one, but a good one when it comes to protect your body - and your mind - during uncertain times.
Dr Bernie says that while sleeping can help relieve stress symptoms, people must still be aware of the risks associated with certain sleep patterns.
"Try to be mindful of sleep hygiene," she says.
"Put away your phone and turn off the computer. It’s important to have a wind-down period before you go to sleep. Avoid caffeine after 6pm."
6. Practice mindfulness
Whether it's through an app, a phone or just by taking 10 minutes by yourself, being mindful and aware of your body and breathing can be incredibly beneficial in times of stress.
"There’s no way to quiet your mind," says Dr Bernie. "Pay attention to the present moment, without judgement. You’ve got to practice it to perfect the art."
7. Eat good food
"Fuelling your body with good nutritious food helps you to cope," says Dr Bernie.
But it's not just any food that can help with stress. It's the good stuff like greens, fibre, and good proteins. Eat your food slowly, enjoy it, and don't forget to plan your next meal.
8. Have a mantra
"When things appear overwhelming, have your own mantra to soothe yourself like ‘I can, I can and I will’."
Dr Bernie says that probiotics such as Zenflore, containing the 1714-Serenitas culture, has been shown to reduce stress-related behaviours and improve stress responses and cognitive function.
Could be worth looking into, then.
You can familiarise yourself with the HSE's guidelines on the Coronavirus here.