Fear of losing loved ones, worries about overburdened hospitals, pressures of working from home while juggling childcare, worries about one’s job, more lockdown…

These are among the anxiety-causing concerns that people are experiencing as the country faces a growing number of COVID-19 cases.

“I worry about my elderly parents. I don’t know whether or not to visit,” one woman says, her worry no doubt shared by thousands across the country.

“For me the biggest worry is the isolation, should I or someone in my family get sick,” another says, reflecting a scenario which could become common if the virus circulates among the population.

One woman who is in quarantine with her husband and their children spoke about the stresses of balancing work, entertaining the children and making sure they keep up with their schoolwork after schools were shut down to help contain the spread.

Meanwhile, a freelance musician said: “I’m worried about my work as I have already lost a couple of thousand euros from cancelled engagements.”

For another woman – who is staying at home to protect a family member with a respiratory condition – it’s the uncertainty of it all that is the most difficult to deal with.

“Not knowing what’s going to happen, when things are going to be OK. A fear of going out and fighting an enemy that can’t be seen.”

Psychologists are seeing high levels of anxiety.

One of them, Carly Aquilina, who specialises in the treatment of anxiety, said some people were cancelling regular visits to their psychologist – to avoid contact and contagion – just when they most need help.

She said anxiety levels may increase when people are forced to get out for basics like food and medicine, although in some cases this could provide relief from being cooped up at home.

Previous mental health issues could resurface, so it is important to be mindful of early warning signs and seek support, Aquilina added.

Also, having to stay indoors may make people susceptible to depression more likely to get depressed.

It’s important for them to keep healthy and reach out from within their homes even if by phone or social media, she said.

“There is a strong link between thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

“If all we hear is bad news this will weigh down on our mental well-being. It’s important to find ways to remain positive.”

Caring for your mental health during outbreak

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a series of guidelines to offer support for mental and psychosocial well-being.

General recommendations

• Get the facts not the rumours. Minimise exposure to news that causes you to feel anxious. Seek information only from trusted sources and get updates at specific times during the day, once or twice.

• Protect yourself and be supportive of others. For example, check in by phone on neighbours or people in your community who may need some extra assistance.

• Honour caretakers and healthcare workers supporting people affected with COVID-19 in your community.

Vulnerable people

• If you have an underlying health condition, make sure to have access to any medications that you are currently using. Activate your social contacts to provide you with assistance, if needed.

• Be prepared and know in advance where and how to get practical help if needed, like having food delivered and requesting medical care.

• Make sure you have up to two weeks of all your regular medicines that you may require.

• Prepare a personal safety pack. The pack may include a summary of basic personal information, available contacts, medical information, regular medicines for two weeks, storable preferred snacks, a bottle of water and some personal clothes.

People in isolation

• Maintain your social networks. You can stay connected via e-mail, social media, video conference and telephone.

• Try as much as possible to keep your daily routines or create new routines.

• Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly, keep regular sleep routines and eat healthy food.

• Keep things in perspective. Public health agencies and experts in all countries are working on the outbreak to ensure the availability of the best care to those affected.

For children

• Help children find positive ways to express feelings such as fear and sadness. Sometimes engaging in a creative activity, such as playing and drawing, can facilitate this process.

• Keep children close to their parents and family, if safe. If a child needs to be separated from their primary caregiver, ensure regular contact is maintained, such as scheduled phone or video calls.

• Maintain familiar routines or create new routines, especially if children must stay at home. Provide engaging age-appropriate activities for children, including activities for their learning.

• Discuss COVID-19 honestly with your children in an age-appropriate way. If children have concerns, addressing those together may ease their anxiety.

• Children will observe adults’ behaviours and emotions for cues on how to manage their own emotions during difficult times.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us