Tips for Coping with Obsession During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic
Our way of thinking, feeling, and interpreting reality is not something that depends solely on us. As much as each person is unique, mental processes are never totally individual phenomena, and they are constantly relating to the context around us.
Precisely this idea has been evidenced by the coronavirus crisis. This global COVID-19 pandemic has not only had economic, political, and medical implications but has also led to changes in terms of the psychological on a massive level, including in the field of mental health.
Among them is a greater vulnerability to problems due to obsessive thoughts, associated with the anxiety produced by the COVID-19 crisis.
What are Obsessive Thoughts?
Obsessive thoughts are mental contents (either in the form of sensory representations or structured ideas through language and often both at the same time) that tend to “invade” over and over again the consciousness of people, making them can’t help but focus their attention on them. It is relatively common that these thoughts end up producing discomfort, either because of their emotional charge (for example, if they are distressing memories) or because they are repeated over and over again.
A clear case of how obsessive thoughts can damage people’s mental health is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, psychopathology in which the person struggles to “remove” those images from their mind through the performance of ritual behaviors, such as washing your hands.
Naturally, the context in which you are in has a lot to do with how easily people fall into obsessive thoughts. In a situation of constant stress, a large number of individuals likely develop this kind of psychological disturbance, and therefore, a pandemic such as a coronavirus also gives rise to this. These are mainly anxiety problems, generated by the activation of the nervous system that occurs when we focus our attention on these recurring thoughts.
The main obsession problems in a pandemic context.
Here are some of the main forms that obsessive thinking can take in the COVID-19 crisis.
1. Fear of contagion
It is one of the most common causes of obsessive thoughts in pandemic contexts. In these situations, it is not necessary to tend towards hypochondria to be afraid of getting sick, of transmitting the pathogen to loved ones, etc. Also, when leaving home many interactions with the outside technically lend themselves to the doubt of whether there is the danger: when traveling in a crowded bus, when using the office bathroom, etc.
2. Exposure to the suffering of others
Situations of loss of loved ones, seeing the elderly get sick … are experiences capable of leaving a powerful emotional mark that is transformed into recurring memories.
3. Fear of losing your job
Economic instability produces job insecurity, something that keeps many people on their toes and with a tendency to try to anticipate the worst possible scenario even at the cost of their mental health.
4. Fear that society will collapse
This is a somewhat more abstract fear than the previous ones, and it has to do with obsessions about the end of welfare states as we know them. It is not difficult to imagine a dystopian future based on the changes we experience as we go through a period of a pandemic.
5. Fear of breaking the rules
Along with the measures to prevent the risk of contagion and economic adaptation to this challenge, new regulations appear which, if breached, can lead to severe penalties. For some people, the feeling of being able to unknowingly be breaking these rules produces a feeling of unease that turns into obsessions.
6. Anxiety about the feeling of vigilance
This is a source of obsessions associated with the previous one: in addition to applying new rules that have been limiting certain freedoms, many States have also begun to monitor the activity of their citizens more: airport controls, reviews of economic activities, supervised quarantines, etc. In the medium and long term, this can cause many people to become alert.
Tips on how to cope with the COVID-19 obsession
• Social media
Right now, the excessive use of social networks can be distressing. It is necessary to be careful and measure the time not to use the media obsessively, with the excessive consumption of informative content, but also fake news that propagates panic. Experts recommend as a strategy for psychological balance, the choice of a source of information that is safe and a limited time of the day to be dedicated to news focused on the epidemic.
In these days of seclusion, relationships must also be observed. Pessimistic conversations that provoke depressive feelings are not the best choices at this time.
• We are together
Negative ideas, which bring fear and much apprehension, are compared to toxic triggers that trigger thoughts that are not good. They can be countered with the idea that we are all together. The impacts on the economy, another great anguish of the population, can be minimized with government measures, the most important thing is to remember that there will be a way out and that the measures taken are now important. Experts have observed that staying at home can now be seen as a privilege. Some people will not be able to comply with the quarantine because they depend on their daily work, but they are in a worrying situation, they are more at risk. Practicing empathy can be a good remedy.
• Organize your routine
A good strategy for taking care of mental health is to plan a routine, as having a regular habit brings emotional balance. For those who cannot work it is time to take advantage of their free time to organize the house, exercise, practice family relationships or even develop activities that bring pleasure, creative leisure, and most importantly, always keeping in mind that we are not alone, but together with the whole country and with several countries in the world. If you still feel distressed, don’t hesitate to seek help.
• Have leisure time throughout the week
The best way to deal with anxiety, especially when it is intensified by a feeling of overload, is to find escape valves – ways to disconnect from the anxiety environment and focus on the light moments of life.
It was easier to find these leisure periods before the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, we had plenty of options, like going to the movies, doing sports outdoors, going to the theater, among other activities.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, such distractions needed to be reinvented, but the options remain diverse. Streaming services, for example, make content for all interests available in an easy and accessible way, such as Netflix series and movies or podcasts from Spotify and other audio content services.
Video games, stretching, exercises on the balcony are other options for those who stay at home. Faced with the reopening of some establishments, certain states already allow the free movement of people through the locals. If you choose to take a tour, it is important to respect the health rules and avoid crowds.
Allow yourself regular leisure time. Thus, it is easier to avoid the feeling of exhaustion and continue the study routine.
• Keep in touch with family and friends
The best coping strategy against anxiety is to welcome other people. The comfort of having someone to talk sincerely about your feelings relieves the symptoms of anxiety and avoids crises. This support is found in family and close friends.
In this sense, it is important to create opportunities for dialogue in your family, to know how to listen, and to be available for conversations.
To keep in touch with friends outside the home, it is possible to use digital tools. Given the recommendation to avoid crowds, video call applications and online games, for example, are great interaction strategies at this time.
• Recognize your limits
Tiredness, bad mood, and stress are some sensations that are enemies of concentration.
The best thing to do in these cases is to recognize the problem and try to solve it outside of studies. That way, you will be able to study for real, instead of just struggling to stay focused.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the feeling of exhaustion or stress can appear even with a balanced routine, and the best alternative, in this case, is to reorganize the schedules so as not to lose the pace of studies.