When I could no longer cope with the worries springing up from negative stories about COVID-19 pandemic, I started avoiding the news. I broke the habit of catching up the news at the early hours of the day from a popular local radio station. Soon, my anxiety faded away.
Today, negative stories are everywhere in the news. Most of the time, journalists and other authorities are bombarding us with breaking news that leaves us with fear rather than courage.
Of course, it's impossible to disregard the news altogether. In a moment of crisis like this, everyone must keep up to date with the latest development to make the right decisions. However, medical experts are raising the alarm that consuming too much of negative stories for the sake of getting awareness poses danger to mental health.
According to WHO, mental health “Is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”, contrary to what many may assume, mental health is “beyond the absence of mental disorders or disabilities”. When anxiety from the bad happenings around us or in the news make us slack off in our daily tasks, something could be wrong.
Besides, the social and economic consequences of COVID-19 pandemic are a big threat to mental health. The situation we now face is quite similar to that of the adversity caused by war -- the death of loved ones, loss of jobs and uncertainty about when this is going to end.
Therefore, taking on this virus also means maintaining mental fitness.
Preserving those things that make life worth living - our need to associate, to move, to earn a living - is crucial for optimal health and development.
How To Cope Up With Our Mental Health Then?
In response to these challenges, medical authorities have given advice and information on how to look after our mental health during this period.
One of such is the 31-point guidance provided by WHO in March 2020. Targeted at different populations, the guidelines offer practical and easy-to-follow advice on how to manage anxiety. It includes moderate news consumption, maintaining social contacts, shunning social stigma, and showing compassion towards others.
Another method of dealing with the situation is tragic optimism. This term refers to the ability to go through life's adversity by finding positive meaning.
According to Viktor Frankyl, and Australian Neurologist who coined this concept, meaning in life can be discovered through three ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed, (2) by experiences or encounter with other people (love), and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering. The third method seems most relevant here. It is the recognition that we can’t change bad situations when they happen, but we can always choose how we react to it. For instance, reading or watching negative news can make one feel anxious, but accepting and recognizing the meaning will not only help us overcome it but also grow through it.
In essence, safeguarding our mental health during a period of crisis like this is an important responsibility.
Viktor Frankyl wrote, "For the world is in a bad state, everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.”