Corona pandemic: We can emerge stronger

It is possible to emerge stronger from a pandemic such as the current corona virus, says psychologist with SOS International.

In line with the news on corona virus taking on a more serious note and the public sector and businesses close down, many experience negative emotions such as fear dejection and anger.

- As humans, we find security and pleasure in our daily meaningful routines. During these days and weeks, in line with our lives changing dramatically, there are many who struggle to find ways of handling this new reality, says chief psychologist Robert Jonasen of SOS International.

Three scenarios, in particular, give rise to feeling overwhelmed by concern, stress and fear:

  • Many parents find working from home while also caring for the children and providing home schooling a stressful situation.
  • Many fear that they or relatives and close friends will fall sick and, in the worst case, risk dying.
  • Many worry about whether they will lose their job and income due to the corona crisis.

Uncertainty is stressful
No-one knows how long this pandemic will last and how much time will pass before we can resume our normal lives. And it is this uncertainty which is stressful – the extremely uncertain perspectives make planning ahead difficult.

At the same time, many of our normal stress reducers are no longer available. We cannot go to the gym, attend sporting events or meet with friends and acquaintances after work.

Chief psychologist Robert Jonasen has the following advice on how to best retain one’s psychological well-being in challenging times:

Accept negative thoughts and emotions:

  • Acknowledge that anxious thoughts and emotions are natural in a scenario as the one we find ourselves in right how. Try to accept these thoughts and emotions instead of using energy on pushing them away.
  • Note the negative thoughts and emotions. Observe them with curiosity – and then let them pass. Avoid falling into ruminating, negative circles.
  • Instead of struggling with negative thoughts and emotions, it is better to invest your energy in creating the best possible life in the circumstances given.

Create structure and predictability:
Although many attempt to avoid reality by watching marathon series on Netflix and playing computer games, it is important to not only rely on passive diversions.

Rather, it is important to plan and carry out new activities which actually carry meaning for you. Robert Jonasen recommends preparing a schedule of daily regular routines and activities:

  • Create structure and predictability. It is important for adults – and crucial for children – to retain a structure with a normal schedule of ”time to wake and get up”, meals, activities and bedtimes.
  • In your schedule, make a distinction between weekdays and weekends.
  • Be creative in terms of adding activities to the calendar. It is also important to take time to evaluate the schedule and check up on whether you adhere to it.

The schedule should cover the next week regulate how everyone works and plays under the same roof. When there is a period of free time in the schedule, you could e.g. spend some time on some of the things we normally do not have time for in a pressed everyday:

- Instead of streaming television series, you could practise playing the guitar, follow a course in Spanish on YouTube or teach your children how to bake, do laundry and tend the garden, say Robert Jonasen.

Remember sleep, diet and exercise
When things change this suddenly, retaining healthy routines can be difficult. However, handling your own and your family’s mental health is important. Sleep, a healthy diet and exercise are three important basic elements, especially in a situation where the family is prevented from participating in normal activities. So make sure to go for a walk or take a run. Nature is still there and, apart from exercise, nature offers a free reduction in mental stress.

New ways of spending time together
Difficult times often shows us new ways to develop. Despite being further removed from family, friends and colleagues than normally. Right now, we have a unique opportunity to get closer to those we live with.

- You can start a family book club or watch Harry Potter films together. This can strengthen family ties - and when else are we all at home together and can do it, asks Robert Jonasen and adds that we can make use of technology to stay in touch with friends and family on Skype, FaceTime and the like:

- Now that the pace is slower and everything is less hectic, it is possible to have deeper conversations. That could and should be exploited.

Spend time on reflection
Finally, it is worth mentioning that stress and negative emotions can also lead to something positive.

- There are indications that people who live through difficult times can actually emerge from these feeling enriched and more robust. We can spend the time reflecting on what adds value and meaning now that our hectic and busy everyday has been paused. With attention and planning, we can actually develop and emerge stronger from this pandemic.

SOS International’s advisory centre is open as usual and if you need to speak to a psychologist, the conversation will be had by video or over the telephone.

SOS International is a provider of healthcare for public companies and the insurance and pension industry. Customers with an agreement with SOS International can make use of SOS International's services.

Read more about SOS International’s healthcare services here

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Contact SOS International's alarm centre on +45 7010 5050.

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