The coronavirus is spreading fear and anxiety as it causes physical sickness, but simple coping mechanisms can keep worried Long Islanders mentally sound and stave off despair, psychologists said.
Christian Racine, senior director for clinics at the Huntington-based Family Service League, said while people are in isolation and practicing social distancing, it is critical to continue daily routines.
“Posing some structure and predictability into the day and into the week is important,” said Racine, who is also a psychologist. “People who are going to school and going to work, they have that predictability. It can be very discombobulating not to have that. You want to keep things as normal as possible. Our bodies fall into rhythms and you want to be able to easily maintain that.”
Racine suggested other strategies:
- Go outside while maintaining social distancing.
- If possible, separate work space, sleep space and relaxation space.
- Exercise if possible, even if space is limited, just getting up and walking every few hours is important.
- For those prone to anxiety, limit news consumption to once or twice a day.
Adam Gonzalez, a clinical psychologist and director of behavioral health at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine, said although people must maintain their physical distance, they can still communicate with others.
He said it’s imperative to connect “with people virtually, whether it be through video conferencing, Skype, FaceTime, all the different platforms that we might have, as well as calling.”
Gonzalez added that for people who are clinically anxious or depressed, he recommends “different relaxation-based strategies” such as soft yoga, meditation and guided imagery.
Racine said it’s important for people with mental disorders to maintain contact with their treatment providers, and to stay aware of any symptoms or negative behaviors that have been problematic in the past. Racine also said family and friends of loved ones with mental disorders should keep in touch with them.
“We don’t want to make any assumptions that just because they will be more isolated they’re going to have more symptoms, but they certainly will have more of a chance,” Racine said of those with mental disorders. “There is so much tension in the air, so to speak, that it has an effect on so many. … The increased isolation and disruption of daily life may really push someone over that threshold.”