News and UpdatesHow to Respond to Corona Virus Crisis-from Oasis Africa Clinical Psychologists

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Gladys Mwiti, PhD; Naomi James, PhD; Rachel Njuguna, PhD; and Sophie Jones, PhD

Managing Anxiety and the Not-Knowing

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought anxiety, fear and stress in our lives today. Schools are closed and children are at home throughout each day. Confined at home, even their play will be limited. Malls are to be avoided where possible, making it difficult for us to distract ourselves with window-shopping or eat out with friends. Weddings have been cancelled, there’s no Church or Mosque, no gatherings of any kind. We love to shake hands, hug friends, talk to one another in groups and frequently attend social activities. Now, we should not shake hands and should greet people from a distance. In addition, we have to wash hands several times in a day. Don’t touch your face, they say.

There is a lot we don’t yet know about Coronavirus; we hear bad news from other countries and worry about what might happen next. But there is a lot we do know about it too: the symptoms, how best to treat and manage people with Coronavirus, and what steps we can take together to restrict the potential spread of Coronavirus.

This is a period of crisis that is not restricted in one place and may spread rapidly creating other unforeseen calamities. During a crisis, we expect anxiety, fear and stress. Meeting with our Oasis Africa Team this morning, we went around the room checking on each other. To the question: How are you feeling right now? We got answers such as: anxious, afraid, freaking out, worried, apprehensive, uneasy.

You may have the same feelings as others and they will change depending on the environment you are in, or your perception of the crisis. These are normal reactions when faced with uncertainty and the threat the virus may create towards our own lives and of those we love.

These feelings are OK. They are normal ways of responding when faced with the uncertainty of Corona virus and, therefore, know that uncertainty, stress and anxiety affect the whole person: Our mental cognition as we try to understand the threat we face; our feelings as we wonder how we shall cope; our spiritual area, where hope and hopelessness often conflict, one against the other. If we surround ourselves with too much negative information, our bodies begin to wear down, resulting in poor sleep and poor appetite as well as lowered immunity. Finally, our behavior is negatively impacted and finally, our relationships may be filled with anger or irritability created through the stress and worry we are experiencing.

The Oasis Africa response to crisis is to remind us to Self-Care and Other-Care and exercise Organizational Care where we can – as we face the Coronavirus’ uncertainty.

Self-care is what “I can do for me,” and no one else can do that. It is my responsibility. Other-care involves one’s commitment to others, helping where one can, so that, we may get through this pandemic. Organizational care reminds one to do all they can to exercise duties and obligations to facilitate well-being care for employees and others who may be in one’s line of care. All these call for commitment and selflessness.

How do we Self-Care and Other-Care?

First, take a leadership role beginning with yourself: Recognize that the Coronavirus pandemic is a Crisis, and crises are a part of life. We should all exercise control in our responding to the crisis instead of allowing the crisis to control us. Leaders, parents, teachers, guardians, and other adults communicating directly with children should engage leadership skills that help contain the crisis. Young ones, and all in their docket, take a cue from adults on how to react when facing a threat. Children will fear what their parents fear, or express hopefulness, peace and courage if this is modeled.

Secondly, be informed: Finding out the facts so that you can gain situational awareness. It is important to get accurate information from respected health organizations. However, in times of crisis, we should not overload our minds with negative material. This happens through watching news consistently, reading messages, and looking for horror stories about Coronavirus. A young woman I deeply respect recently wrote this to her family:

“I remember that where your attention goes, energy flows. After all, most dis-ease and lower immunity begins with our thoughts. I’ve chosen to quarantine myself from the negative 24hr news cycle and social media, controlling when I choose to access it to stay informed and aware.”

Next, take care of your Body: Sleep well, exercise, drink lots of water and eat balanced meals. Self-care reminds us that we should do all we can to multiply our energy and no to deplete it during these uncertain times.

Take care of your Mind: Adapt yourself to the new reality – for example, spending the whole day at home, and may be a week or more. Practice self-control – do not project your anxiety on others – ranting about service providers or even blaming a child for pouring water on the floor! If tension creeps in, take several deep breaths and relax. It is ok to feel anxious and worried at the moment, these thoughts and feelings can and will pass. Focus on your environment and give thanks for whatever is real around you – for example, the fact that you are alive and breathing or for the sound of a child’s laughter, even the smell of cooking food

Take care of your Spirit: Feel the presence of God, even if you have never done so before. He is still in control of the world even if life storms threaten our existence. If you read the Bible, check out Psalm 91: 1-6. Talk to God and share your worries with Him, or practice your spirituality as you know it. Hold on to God’s unchanging love whatever may happen in the days ahead. Christians know the assurance: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you are with me,” (Psalm 23:4). Parents need to tell their children that God is with us. He has not promised us life with no problems. His promise is that He will walk us “through” this crisis.

Take care of your Relationships: This is not the time to gossip, blame others or express hatred. Bless instead of cursing people in your life. It is time to forgive and refuse to dwell on past hurts. This is because anger that is “buried” in our memories changes into resentment and pain whenever we think of the person who hurt us. We become prisoners of the pain which slowly becomes poison in our minds and hearts. Imagine if you are in lock-down with such a person! You will want to seek help quickly to break the control of past hurts. Indeed, we know that forgiveness enhances resilience – our ability to “bounce” back into healthy living once the crisis is over. See how to seek help at the end of this article.

Take Care of your Community – Care for Others and Communicate. Reach out with a caring heart to others in the ways that are possible during Lockdown. Check on that sister or brother that you don’t usually call. Do not forget that your parents and relatives living away from you will worry about you. Please, keep communication lines open and stay connected to others, use email, phone or social media if you cannot communicate in person. Help the needy, offer to do the shopping for elderly relatives and friends, pass extra food to your neighbor, and so on. Never demean any one’s means of coping, for example, laughing at them when they pray to God. When we touch others with caring, life flows into us and we are energized for the next mile.

During Lockdown, exercise Creativity and allow others to be creative. The first few days of Lockdown may bring the feeling of excitement – the joy of freedom from the daily hustle and bustle. However, this may soon turn to isolation and boredom. However, take matters into your hands and regain control. Begin with a schedule for you and the family, a plan that is designed to relieve the feelings of isolation and boredom. Listen to music, play board games, learn a language or simply relax together.

The fastest way to regain control is Routine. Children thrive where there is routine. Do not allow chaos in your home or apartment block, wherever you live. Maintain school hours for children and plan how they may be assisted to study at home. Include fun and games during breaks, but good habits and the discipline that goes with it is a must! Remember to make discipline fun for young children, for example, washing hands, as we must, or not hugging and kissing. Singing the chorus of your child’s favorite song with them could help them wash their hands for a full 20 seconds. Couple these with small rewards for remembering and their other achievements at home.

Plan for times of Creativity – What can the family do together? Can they learn and teach each other new skills? For example, reading, painting, drawing writing, or cooking? What other ideas do others have? Perhaps you could create a chart of ideas with your family and practice new activities together.

Finally, crisis may bring Loss and Bereavement – job loss, even death of loved ones. There will be shock and confusion. Depending on what is possible during Lockdown, maintain control and do the best to manage with what you have. Reach out to others when you need to, it’s ok to ask for help and to let people know if you are struggling. It may be helpful to reflect on how you and your family have coped already and what has supported you through challenging times in the past. Do not forget that the Oasis Africa Team will do their best to be close at hand to assist you as needed.

E-Therapy is ready at Oasis Africa.

The best means of counseling and psychotherapy is usually face-to-face. However, in the past, Oasis Africa had to embrace electronic means of communication with our clients who are far from Nairobi. We can use the Telephone, Zoom, Skype or WhatsApp. This is E-Therapy. With the Corona virus Lockdown, Oasis Africa has reverted to E-Therapy so that we can support you as much as we can through this pandemic. The Oasis Africa Team of Clinical Psychologists, Counseling Psychologists and Personal Development coaches are ready to walk with you.

To book appointments, call +254725366614 or e-mail admin@oasisafrica.co.ke.

For further information, please see the World Health Organization’s mental health advice for Coronavirus

© Oasis Africa (2020).
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