Coronavirus social distancing: How to stay sane

WHO gives mental health advice to health care workers, caregivers coping with stress from COVID-19 outbreak

Anxiety surrounding the new coronavirus is taking a toll on people’s mental health.

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The World Health Organization recognized that COVID-19 is causing stress among people worldwide who fear they will be exposed to the virus amid constant news updates with reports of more people being infected with the disease.

The World Health Organization recognized that COVID-19 is causing stress among people worldwide. (iStock). 

As a result, people are socially isolating themselves by working from home and avoiding contact with others in public places.

The WHO’s mental health department published a series of mental health tips giving advice to employees, health care workers, caregivers and people who are quarantined.

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The guidelines, released last week, urged people not to associate the coronavirus with a nationality or ethnicity and be empathetic of anyone who may be impacted.

“Be empathetic to those who got affected, in and from any country, those with disease have not done anything wrong,” the guide noted.

The guidelines also advised people to limit their consumption of news that may make them feel distressed and seek out facts over hearsay on social media. People, according to the guidelines, are not to call someone who contracts the disease a “victim” and instead refer to them as “people who have COVID-19."

The WHO recommends people who are in isolation to stay connected with loved ones, friends, family and colleagues via email, social media channels or by phone if accessible. Maintaining a daily routine and sticking to it in addition to engaging in healthy activities like home exercise or relaxation practices are also encouraged.

“If possible, staying connected with your loved ones including through digital methods is one way to maintain contact,” the guidelines said. “Turn to your colleagues, your manager or other trusted persons for social support – your colleagues may be having similar experiences to you.”

WHO guidelines tell health workers that it's “quite normal” to feel stressed, however, it is “No means a reflection that you cannot do your job or that you are weak.” The guidelines suggest workers prioritize their own wellbeing, urging that it’s just as important as physical health.

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Social isolation can perpetuate the ongoing loneliness epidemic impacting many Americans, particularly the elderly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned people over age 60 to avoid crowded places, cancel “nonessential travel” and to “stay home as much as possible.”

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