Dr.Sabrina Suma (Clinical Psychologist- Human Relations Institute and Clinics- Dubai)
Nowadays all the World and The Italian community are facing a very difficult moment. It seemed a sanitary emergency, critical yes but limited in some areas, but it become a global emergency.
On the 11 of March 2020 the World Health Organization declared Covid19, pandemic and, officially, invited all the Countries to take rigid and exceptional collective measures, hoping, together, to be able to contain and control the problem as soon as possible.
The situation is more delicate for whom is living abroad, for the expats.
In fact, in this case to the personal concern there is an addition of anxiety for the vulnerability of the loved ones far away, who are currently in isolation.
The fluctuating experiences of anxiety, fear and helplessness are tilting even the most elementary resilience skills and the contact with the adaptive component of our emotions is lacking.
Although in fact fear is experienced in its most negative sense, it actually represents one of the most important primary emotions for the human being; the latter, if lived and expressed in a balanced way, is fundamental for our survival; however if the exposure to a danger is prolonged, or if the cause of our fear is triggered by a source unknown to us or difficult to control, as in the case of Coronavirus, our reaction risks becoming exaggerated and inappropriate.
The limit between a functional activation of the nervous system (eustress) and a dysfunctional activation (distress) in this case thins; and the brain predisposes the body to a defensive attack / escape type mechanism.
This is why, in these cases, we risk having disproportionate reactions, with the considerable risk of making mistakes; or we run the risk of implementing superficial, but no less dangerous, behaviors based on the blind negation of the problem.
Our attack or escape system, in fact, is adequate in cases of imminent dangers, physiological activation is able, in these cases, to bypass our rational mind, but it is completely inadequate if the danger is prolonged or unknown.
In this case we need to balance our emotions with rational behavior capable of restoring a minimum of stability in our lives.
What can be done in order to protect ourselves from this stress and to prevent the fear is taking over?
First of all we must try to avoid overexposing ourselves to the continuous and compulsive search for information on the topic. Saying that I don't mean that we don't have to inform and update ourselves, this would be the equivalent of acting in the escape mode behavior I mentioned above; but it means first of all making sure that secure and reliable or at least official sources are being consulted. It is important to avoid looking for information in a spasmodic and obsessive way throughout the day, for example it is more useful to try to fix and respect pre-established moments that allow us adequate information, and then return at the normal daily activities.
A second advice is to try to recognize when we are experiencing the "attack or escape" behaviors, such as underestimating the advice of health authorities, having a defiant attitude, feeling desperate or scared throughout the day , breaking into a cold sweat, not being able to focus or feeling confused throughout the day.
In these cases, it is important to be able to stay concentrated on the "here and now",to be able to stay focused on what we are doing in the present and to avoid mental ruminations; if it is true that Coronavirus is contagious, it is also true that most people still have mild symptoms, so if we are healthy and we put all the efforts to protect ourselves, there is no reason to lose our temper and to get overwhelmed by fear.
Stress would end up weakening our immune system and that's not what we want. and this is not what we want.
Talking about this, it’s good to remember that, although as a precaution, we are trying to reduce our social life which leads us to spend more time inside the house, especially now that schools are closed; however, this should not instill bad habits. Continuing to follow routines and schedules, at least during the week, can help us to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Good nutrition and adequate rest are necessary in times of stress.
A A fourth tip is to protect children.
Let’s avoid exposing them to alarmist information during the day, for example, we can try not to leave TV on social networks constantly open while we are in their company; or let’s avoid to update our friends with details on situations that struck or scared us.
Let’s try to give our children a simplified but clear and sincere communication of what is happening, avoiding excessive anxieties and remembering ourselves that we are there to protect and not to frighten them
Let's not forget that children are experts in the non-verbal language.
Let's help them to find a new routine, which can alternates playful moments with more demanding study ones, it will be useful for them, and doing that we will be able to get spaces offree time for ourselves, too.
Do not isolate yourself,, if it is true that in this moment, we are asked to avoid direct contact but do not stop considering others as an important resource; do not surrender to the climate of sensory deprivation of recent times. The request not to be physically close to people should not be confused with a request of not to stay united, it is precisely in this moment that we need to feel the presence of the others.
And if you think that fear and anxiety create excessive discomfort, do not have problems contacting a professional, do not be ashamed to ask for help if you consider it necessary.
And finally, try to start and end the day with a new mantra, which reminds you to keep calm, my solidarity can only be this: "Let's stay together and everything will be fine!"