“How do you do it, Minguita? I mean, just reading all the updates makes me already feel and imagine I have the symptoms.”
This was a message sent to me in one of my many Viber groups recently. It is a very real problem nowadays. Last night I had to counsel someone who had a post-nasal drip and started to get light wheezing after she read about looting, holdups, and planned robberies that turned out to be fake news.
She calmed down when I reminded her that she and her family need to just follow the basic rules of the quarantine, as stated in the government guidelines, in order to stay safe. I also assured her that her post-nasal drip and occasional light wheezing were not signs of COVID-19. She has emotionally-induced asthma; something more and more people are experiencing lately due to all the anxiety and stress brought about by this pandemic.
And so I would like to share some of the advice I gave my friends on how to keep sane and calm and centered during this worldwide crisis.
1. Remember that more than 80% of COVID-19 cases are mild. Deaths occur in around 2.3% of cases and mostly in people above 70, especially those who have other underlying illnesses like hypertension and diabetes. In Korea, where testing is more vigorous, this death rate is less than 1%.
Just take care that our parents really stay home and eat properly and keep healthy habits. Our local death statistics, which are higher, are misleading and stem from the fact that we are not testing those with mild symptoms due to the lack of testing kits.
2. Try to take a break from social media. A lot of the stress being experienced by many is because we are all glued to all things COVID-19. And social media is full of misinformation that can cause useless anxiety.
3. Choose the Viber or WhatsApp groups that you will engage in and take seriously. Otherwise you will just become a nervous wreck; not just because of the panic they strike in your heart, but also because of all the false news that they spread and which you wish to correct all the time. If in doubt of any new and panic-causing info, check it first with the reliable, credible sources. (READ: LIST: Groups providing helpful information about the Luzon lockdown)
4. Keep the important numbers on hand, such as the nearest hospital, DOH hotline, at least one reliable doctor you can call, your barangay hotline, the PNP hotline to report crimes, and food delivery numbers. These are the basic numbers you need to survive.
5. Stop looking at the numbers of COVID-19 patients if they are causing you stress. There’s nothing you can do about it anyway.
5. Avoid large family gatherings first, but try to keep bonded through Skype or Facetime. You can even have shared meals remotely. We plan to have our regular Sunday family lunches this way. We may be apart, but we will try to eat at the same time and chat like we were together. Our mother is 84 years old, and my husband and I are physicians still exposed to patients. We don’t want to take the risk of infecting her or any of our family.
6. Do things you like to do while at home. I intend to play the piano and cook more. These are two things I love to do but can’t do on a regular basis due to my hectic work schedule. I might not even have this luxury soon once reservists have to man PGH. So I will do as much as I can today.
7. Think of people who may be suffering right now – an elderly or sick friend, a super anxious friend, someone who may be lonely and quarantined alone – and send them a loving message to make them know they are not alone. If you can help in feeding programs for the marginalized without breaking the rules of social distancing, then do so. There are many people who really need our help, and thinking about them will prevent any self-obsession.
8. And finally, meditate, do deep breathing exercises through your nose, pray regularly, and know that God is in charge.
There are positive changes happening amid all this turmoil and suffering. Some of us see them already while others don’t. But surely we see that people are kinder to each other. Our people have again realized the importance of our health care workers who are the frontliners in this world war. This is a far cry from the dangerous “smart shaming” and “expert bashing” we painfully witnessed in the recent past. (READ: LIST: How to help healthcare workers, frontliners during coronavirus pandemic)
Our country is rediscovering its true soul; something we had started to lose because rudeness and hate and anger had become vogue – propagated further by irresponsible trolls. Nowadays, these same trolls have largely kept quiet, and those who have tried to foment anger and hatred amid the pandemic were pummeled by the wrath of outraged netizens.
The best, and perhaps the only way we can get through this crisis and emerge a better people and nation, is by thinking of others. It’s the miracle of the “multiplication of the loaves” that we have to live and practice, both literally and figuratively – where food was enough to feed all, but where the miracle had to start with people willing to share what they had with those who had none. (READ: [OPINION] We need people power, not emergency power)
After we get through this together, in the right way, then we will see a better world. But we need to stay sane and centered first. – Rappler.com
Dr. Ma. Dominga “Minguita” Padilla is a Clinical Associate Professor at the Philippine General Hospital-UPCM; an active consultant at the St. Luke’s Medical Center, Global City; and the Founder and President of the Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines.