Mental health guidelines on the COVID-19 pandemic
(Agence France-Presse) - May 20, 2020 - 12:00am

Mental health issues such as panic attacks and nervousness may arise during emergencies, uncertainties or crisis situations like COVID-19. Adults and children may experience disturbing episodes of high anxiety with discomfort, disappointment, confusion, isolation, fear and significant distress which can be overwhelming.

To assist and address these concerns that have psychological impact on one’s well-being, the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde’s Benilde Well-Being Center (BWC), an integral part of the Lasallian Mission and Student Life that attends to the psychosocial and emotional well-being of students, shares the following coping strategies:

1. Take care of yourself and your loved ones, family and community. Focus on the things that you can do such as having good personal hygiene – washing your hands, taking a bath, grooming – and encourage others to do the same, too.

2. Take care of your body. Eat healthy and well-balanced meals, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, get lots of sleep, and avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs.

3.  Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Practice deep, mindful breathing. Begin by taking a deep breath of four seconds, hold for a second, and release it for a total of four seconds. Keep repeating this pattern until your breathing becomes controlled and steady. Focusing on the count of four not only will prevent you from hyperventilating, but it can also help in stopping other negative symptoms from manifesting.

4. Stay in the present moment during episodes of intense anxiety or other overwhelming emotions. This allows people to feel safe and in control by focusing on the physical world and how they experience it. When you find yourself worrying about something that has not happened or when you are anticipating a future threat, gently and mindfully bring yourself to the now. Notice the sights, sounds, tastes, and other sensory experiences in your immediate surroundings and name them.

5. Maintain healthy relationships. Connect and communicate with family, friends, social support system, and others in your community through phone or online. Share with them your concerns and how you are currently feeling.

6. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news and stories about the crisis. Try to do activities you enjoy at home. Create indoor workout routines. Declutter, clean and organize your space. Set goals like getting a new hobby to avoid an idle mind and maintain a sense of control. Do what helps you feel a sense of safety such as avoiding or limiting attendance of social events.

7. Remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Repeating an encouraging, positive mantra to yourself during a panic attack can serve as a coping mechanism. Try repeating something as simple as “This is just temporary. I will be okay.” “I just need to breathe.” “This, too, will pass.” Stay level-headed. Focus on your safety and well-being. However, if stress reactions interfere with your daily activities for several days in a row, call a mental health care provider and seek professional help.

For parents:

8. Take time to talk with your child about the COVID-19 pandemic. Answer questions and share facts about the infectious disease in a clear and understandable way.

9.     Limit your child’s exposure to media coverage. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.

10.  Reassure your child of your support and safety. Let them know that it is ok if they feel upset. Watch for the changes in their behavior that may require professional help.

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