By Clare Lancaster, Educational Psychologist, Tanglin Trust School
With the spread of the 2019-nCoV, the raising of the DORSCON alert to orange in Singapore, the resultant changes being brought into schools and workplaces, and the intense media focus and public speculations and rumours, it's hard not to feel anxious or worried. This impact is being seen across communities with stockpiling and panic-buying of household goods and masks.
Increased anxiety in times of unusual threat is a normal response, and to an extent, a healthy one. Our brains are wired to pay more attention to new or serious threats because this is what keeps us alive. The amygdala filters information coming into the brain to ascertain if there is a threat that requires a response and to initiate that response immediately. However, it is an old part of the brain; it doesn't know if the information coming in is from an immediate threat or from multiple new sources, and so it can respond strongly to either situation. The amygdala can hijack our rational and thinking systems and make us behave in ways we normally wouldn't.
For regular local updates, you can check government sources or sign up to the government WhatsApp service. The government is invested in spreading accurate and realistic information to keep people safe.
There are other things we can do to keep our own (and other people's) anxiety in check:
Be realistic about the level of risk
We are exposed to the risk of disease every day. Many of us have lived through other outbreaks here or in other countries (SARS/MERS) with no ill-effects. For some of our young people and children however, this is the first such event. Reassurance based on experience can be very helpful for those new to this situation. Listen to their concerns, empathise and try to reassure that they are most likely safe within the precautions that are being taken.
Remember everyone is in this together
By acknowledging that we are all having to make changes and take precautions, and that anxiety will affect us all to a larger or smaller degree, we can cultivate compassion for each other.
Take sensible and realistic precautions
Keep up-to-date with Ministry of Health (MoH) guidelines. Following the NHS guidelines of "Catch it, Bin it, Kill it" is effective.
Focus on your (and your child's) wellbeing
Remember that the basics still apply during this period – eating well, sleeping well, and getting regular exercise are the foundations of staying healthy.
In times of stress, we may need focus more consciously on protecting our overall wellbeing. Think, "What has helped me through stressful times before?" For some people this may be relaxation or mindfulness activities, for others it might be getting engaged and active. Remember the five ways to wellbeing and try to take care of your mental and emotional health as much as you take physical health steps:
- Connect: Make sure to spend some time everyday talking with friends and loved ones about topics other than the virus.
- Be active: do some stretches, go for a walk, run around the park or engage in your chosen sport – not only will it take your mind off the virus, it also helps keep you healthy.
- Take notice: Whether you choose meditation, curling up with a book or going out for a run, engage with it fully to get the benefits.
- Learn: stretch your brain with a new challenge, whether it's completing a crossword, starting a new book or signing up for an online class.
- Give: sharing your resources with others can bring an immense sense of wellbeing as well as benefitting others.
If you feel that your anxiety about the 2019-nCoV is impacting your daily function and overwhelming you, reach out for help. Speak to your doctor or mental health provider, or if the person struggling is a student, reach out to us in school via your child's tutor or Head of Year.
For school-related updates, please check the parent portal within the Novel Coronavirus Health Advisory section.