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Pandemics, like COVID-19, can strain our coping strategies. During a pandemic, it’s not uncommon to experience strong emotions. Psychology helps us to understand normal responses to abnormal events. Novel and unfamiliar threats provoke anxiety and can lead to unfounded fears and even racism. Social distancing, effective communication, and public health measures are effective lines of defense. 

Stay Informed – Not Overloaded

Too much news and social media can create unneeded stress. Gather information that will help you accurately determine your risk so that you can take reasonable precautions. Framing risk with clear facts helps quell panic. Alberta Health Services, the World Health Organization, Public Health Agency of Canada, and the US Center for Disease Control are all reliable information sources. 

Stay healthy and manage stress

Social distancing and good personal hygiene will keep you and others safe.

  • Take some time for yourself, go for a walk, or spend time with pets if you have them. 
  • Keep connected. Maintain your social networks (even via social media and telephone).
  • Avoid getting into discussions about the event if you think they have the potential to escalate to conflict. Be cognizant of the frequency with which you’re discussing the news. 
  • Stress and anxiety about the future is not productive. Instead, work on issues you care about. 
  • Avoid catastrophizing and do your best to maintain a balanced perspective. 
  • Build your resilience—we can learn to adapt well to stress—how have your coped with stressors before? Add resilience tools to your tool bag to manage life’s adversities. 
  • Keep things in perspective —our government needs to prepare for possible worst-case scenarios in order to protect the public. The public, however, does not need to expect the worst. 
  • Create a plan—how would you respond if you or a loved one were diagnosed with COVID-19? Developing contingency plans for potential scenarios can lessen your anxiety. 

When to seek professional help 

Psychologists are trained to help people find constructive ways of dealing with anxiety and emotional stress. Contact a psychologist if you feel overwhelming nervousness or lingering sadness, or if you experience persistent feelings of distress or hopelessness and you feel like you are barely able to get through your daily responsibilities & activities. 

Psychologists’ Association of Alberta

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