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Easing anxiety in the wake of coronavirus

In light of the global outbreak of coronavirus, the Australian Psychological Society has sought to reassure the public by providing advice to help people who may feel anxious or overwhelmed.

Dr Ros Knight, president of the Australian Psychological Society, said that it is a reasonable and understandable response for individuals to feel concerned over the outbreak. However, she said there is no need to panic.

“As humans, we are hardwired to be afraid of the unknown and of something that appears random and uncontrollable,” Dr Knight said.

“If you find yourself becoming anxious about coronavirus, try to remember that medical and scientific experts are following strict protocols to contain the virus and treat those affected.”

Dr Knight encouraged those who may be feeling anxious to be mindful of the information they become exposed to and limit their access to social media, which may be portraying false information.

“Exposing yourself to a constant stream of negative information takes a huge psychological toll,” she said.

“Avoid reading social media posts that warn of an apocalypse and don’t get drawn into doomsday discussions. 

“Sticking to the facts and relying on scientific sources for your information is the best way to maintain perspective and manage your feelings positively.”

Dr Knight also encouraged individuals to take appropriate steps in order to go about their daily tasks as normal.

“Remain calm and practical and continue with your usual regime, as much as you can. 

“Observe good hygiene habits, like washing your hands and avoiding close contact with people who are unwell and, if it makes you feel better, wear an appropriate mask in public,” she said.

She added that parents and caregivers should be extra attentive to children and the effect that the media surrounding the spread of the virus might have on them.

Some children may even be affected by quarantine practices and excluded from school, which can be confusing.

“We know that children absorb information from the news, social media and discussions adults have around them. 

“Some children have been excluded from school. Parents and caregivers may need to carefully explain to their children why they can’t go to school or why one of their friends is not there.”

Dr Knight provided some tips on how best to discuss such matters with children.

“Research shows that being open and honest with children is the best way to help them cope with serious situations,” she said.

“Sharing the news will help children to not feel excluded, imagine the situation is worse than it really is or, even, blame themselves. Sharing information shows that you trust and value them, which can enhance their resilience.” 

“Try not to overload children with too many details. Give small amounts of information, wait and then ask if they have any questions,” she concluded.

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“Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain