Healthwise Column: How to cope with COVID-19

We live in an extraordinary time with nearly everyone on this planet profoundly affected by the pandemic.

During the COVID-19 crisis, communities around the world are collectively coping with a range of negative emotions: anxiety, panic, boredom, anger, depression and grief.

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It reminds me of the Great Depression. My dad was born in 1930 – the first year of an economic disaster that shaped the mood of the world for a decade.

He is weathering the pandemic in his usual resilient way. His generation and the world survived the second world war, many economic downturns and the unpredictable unfolding of history.

He pays attention to the news and is taking the recommended precautions, but he has kept busy looking after himself, staying in touch with friends and family by phone and occupying himself with activities at home.

If you’re feeling stuck at home, try saying, “I’m safe at home”, “I get to stay at home” or “I get to stay at home, safe with my family.” Those who have jobs considered essential services, leave their families each morning and look forward to rejoining them for dinner.

None of us is alone. You are not alone if you need to work outside your home, if you can work from home or if you are out of work because of the pandemic.

You are not alone if you are self-isolating after a return from travel or because you have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Many others have shared or are sharing the challenges of your experience.

You are not alone if you are worried about money because your place of work has closed, you’ve lost your job or business is painfully slow.

One of the keys to managing the stress of difficult circumstances is to recognize where you do have a sense of control. As individuals, we can feel helpless in a pandemic, but there are many things that are still within your control.

By staying home as much as possible, keeping a safe distance from others and practicing good hand hygiene, we can protect ourselves, the people around us and collectively the health of everyone in our community.

We also have control of how we occupy our bodies with activity and our minds with helpful thoughts. We all feel compelled to follow the news, but if we left the TV on all day, we will soon be overwhelmed with bad news.

Take your daily news in small doses – maybe just an hour, when Dr. Bonnie Henry and our Minister of Health, Adrian Dix provide their daily updates.

If you’re at work, recognize that what you are doing is essential for our community and that you are making a difference.

If you are at home, recognize that you are doing your part in reducing the spread of infections in your community. Create meaningful structure to your day. Get up at the same time each morning, shower, change and make your bed. Plan healthy meals and find ways to get the exercise your body needs. Carefully choose the entertainment and information you are exposing to your mind. The goal is to inform and uplift.

Reach out online or by phone to your friends and family. Check up on those you know who need to hear your voice or could use your help.  

Those of us in healthcare are committed to caring for our patients and our community. Our hospital healthcare teams have been actively preparing to provide the care that is needed.

We have your back, and we will be here whenever you need us.

Family physicians are still in their clinics each day, looking after our patients by phone or video and when required, seeing patients in person when necessary.

If you have symptoms that may be due to COVID-19, use the BC COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool at bc.thrive.health. By completing it, you will be guided to the most appropriate care. If you are a Burnaby resident or a patient of a Burnaby family physician, use the burnabycoronavirus.com tool.

We are in this together. You are not alone.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. He was the founding chair and lead physician of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice and continues to serve on the board. His Healthwise Column appears regularly in this paper.

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