This article first appeared in the Vail Daily on March 7, 2020.
News coverage on the coronavirus is widespread and can be overwhelming. Children and adults with an underlying anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, or trauma history may be particularly vulnerable or at risk for exacerbated levels of distress.
While most news articles have focused on physical precautions and preparedness, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health emphasizes the importance of psychological preparedness. Here are some tips to enhance resiliency and psychological well-being:
Avoid media fatigue and media-induced anxiety: Anxiety and stress frequently increase in the moments during and immediately after a person views distressing news coverage. Limit your exposure to COVID-19 coverage. It may be useful to create a schedule and a time limit to engage in social media or news coverage. Ensure you are prioritizing health and resiliency by protecting important routines, such as sleep, engagement with social support, and/or physical activity.
Stay informed in a useful way: Focus on obtaining news and updates from reputable, fact-driven organizations that are concise and do not sensationalize anxiety. Eagle County’s Public Safety Information http://www.ecemergency.org and the Centers for Disease Control http://www.cdc.org are excellent resources that provide updates and concrete safety plans.
Focus on what you can control: Recognize that there are steps available to reduce the likelihood of infection. Focus on washing your hands, avoiding touching your face and mouth, and seeking medical assistance if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.
Talk to your children: Often parents avoid discussing distressing events with their children in hopes that they can protect them from unnecessary anxiety. Similar to adults, anxiety in children is often caused by confusion, chaos, misunderstanding, or feeling out of control. Chances are that your children have heard about COVID-19. Talk to them about it. If they are very young, this is an excellent opportunity to discuss germs and the importance of handwashing. Let your children know that if they hear something scary they can talk to you about it.
Know when it is time to ask for help: It is important to recognize that global events can trigger underlying anxiety and depressive disorders. If your level of distress is beginning to impact your daily functioning, your ability to engage at work, or your relationship with your family, it is important to seek consultation from a behavioral health professional. Behavioral health providers are trained to help alleviate distress and create effective coping strategies. If you are interested in finding a local provider, visit http://www.eaglevalleybh.org for a list of all local behavioral health providers. Providers in this directory can be filtered by specialty, location, and population served, as well as types of insurance accepted.
Dr. Casey Wolfington is a licensed psychologist and the community behavioral health director of Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, a nonprofit service of Vail Health. Dr. Wolfington has worked to enhance the behavioral health workforce in our community for over 12 years.