Message from Dr Util Thomas, Director of the Mental Health Unit at the Ministry of Public Health
Guyana is in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic and all of us are affected in some way or the other.
We have been forced to adapt to a new lifestyle to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
Staying at home with our families, wearing a mask, washing our hands regularly and finding new hobbies and routines have become the new norm.
Many of us are finding it hard to adjust. The stress associated with this period is manifesting in different ways for some of us; lack of sleep, constant fear, anger, confusion, frustration, anxiety and depression are what we face daily.
How can we cope with all the different challenges just mentioned;
*First and foremost, ensure that you are talking to someone you trust about your problems, your thoughts and your feelings. Even if that person cannot solve the problem, just talking sometimes is enough. A problem shared is a problem halved. When we talk about a problem, our brain releases chemicals which ease the symptoms of stress. Vice versa, we must be ready to listen to others so that they too can have the same benefits. Listen without being judgmental or forcing persons to talk.
*Ensure that you know what help is available in your local community, and in the country at large, so that you can solve your problems or overcome challenges. Some of the help available may include: the religious groups, non-governmental organizations, the health care facilities where health care workers are found, ministries and other government departments, clubs, etc. Your problems are going to feel much more manageable, and you will feel much more hopeful and confident about getting through this pandemic if you are well informed of available supports.
*Everyone has strengths but sometimes we become so used to them that we tend to view them as ordinary and unremarkable. Look for them; that ability to overcome, the ability to endure, the ability to see beyond the moment. Look deep inside and recognize those strengths, skills and achievements and use them to get through this period.
*In your day to day routine do not fill your time with unrealistic tasks that you may not be able to accomplish instead, prioritize focus on those that can be easily completed so as to reduce the size of the to do list. This will reduce stress and increase our sense of achievement. Giving you the opportunity and drive to focus on the larger tasks.
*Set aside time for yourself every day when you neglect your personal time everything else suffers. So, find the time to look after you. Include restarting old hobbies such as reading, cooking, sewing, playing a musical instrument, knitting, board games ,art, decorating, gardening, keeping pets, listening to music among other things.
*Stay connected with family, friends, workmates and whatever clubs, organizations or social groups you may belong to. Fulfillment of basic social needs such as love, belonging and connectedness, brings a feeling of security and contentment which is very important in preventing depression.
*Exercise, sleep and eat healthy every day. These are powerful stress busters and natural anti-depressants.
*If you are taking medications for any pre-existing conditions remember to take them every day as prescribed by your health care provider.
*Do not use alcohol and other substances of abuse such as marijuana and cocaine to deal with stressful situations. This only adds to the problems by worsening behavior and adding to issues of misuse and can also affect your immune system making it easier for you to become infected with the corona virus
*Manage the time spent looking or listening to media that can be upsetting and increase your feeling of hopelessness and panic. Instead seek information from the Ministry of Public Health and PAHO website and Facebook page which are credible sources. Consume only enough information to keep yourself and others safe.
*Stay positive. Journaling twice per week about things we are grateful for has been shown to have powerful positive effects on emotional wellbeing.
*And of course, when in doubt, seek help from the Mental Health Unit or any other health care worker.
I hope this information has helped to relieve some of your anxiety and has provided you with answers to help you cope