Limit social media usage, adopt a routine amid virus outbreak — mental health experts

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 19) — The Psychological Association of the Philippines issued Thursday a set of recommendations for when the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak starts to weigh on Filipinos' mental welfare.

"Feeling worried and anxious is an expected reaction to the current crisis. It is normal to worry about our health and that of our loved ones, our work and finances. There are ways to lessen our stress and anxiety so that we can better care for ourselves and our family members," the group said.

Follow proper health guidelines.

PAP said the public should take concrete steps to follow the recommendations of the Department of Health and other local agencies, such as frequent handwashing, disinfecting objects and surfaces, practicing correct coughing and sneezing, staying home, and practicing social distancing.

Limit social media usage.

"Heavy consumption of news and social media can increase distress and anxiety," PAP said.

Exposure to news and social media should be limited to only specific hours or times of the day, the group recommended.

Adopt a regular routine.

Adopting a regular routine at home or at work gives one a sense of purpose and order to his or her day, PAP said.

Set aside time to do things that you enjoy.

Watching a favorite show, engaging in hobbies, listening to your favorite songs, dancing, praying, or doing other things that make you feel good can lessen your distress, PAP noted.

Stay connected to others.

"Stay connected to others and to valued social groups even in the midst of social distancing," the group said.

Videos and other online tools are a few ways to check in on each other and share emotional support.

Practice empathy and compassion.

"One should find ways to contribute to those who need the most support in this crisis," PAP said.

This could be in the form of buying basic needs for persons who live alone, the elderly, or the disabled; providing medical supplies and personal protective gear to health workers and hospitals.

Agencies are also seeking monetary and in-kind donations to supply these needs.

Seek additional support.

Seeking mental health or counseling services might help those who find it difficult to cope with the crisis. While face-to-face interventions are currently discouraged, online assistance is still available.

"If you are having trouble sleeping, eating, or doing anything to help yourself or others in your household. Inquire with mental health care providers for assistance or online / tele-counseling services," PAP said.

To date, COVID-19 cases in the Philippines have soared to 202, with deaths rising to 17. Seven patients have recovered.

Globally, those who have fallen sick because of the virus have reached over 218,000, with more than 8,800 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 global tracker. Over 84,100 have recovered.

The Health Department earlier said that most of those who recovered and were discharged from the hospitals exhibited mild symptoms and did not have underlying medical conditions.