While we are all focused on prevention through social distancing and minimizing exposure to others who may be ill, there is still a possibility that any of us or our loved ones might test positive at some point in the next few months.
Preparing ahead of time means stocking up and taking stock so that you will have what you need when you need it, and can focus on getting well.
Fortunately, the majority of people who test positive are able to stay home with self-care. But that comes with its own worries.
Robert L. Trestman, Ph.D., M.D., chair of Carilion Clinic Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, offers some guidance to help reduce anxiety should you or a loved one find yourself at home with a positive diagnosis.
Put a Plan in Place
First, ask yourself what you will need over the next two weeks. Food? Medicine? Toilet paper?
Then, ask yourself how you will get these things. Friends? Delivery services?
Connect now with nearby friends and family or look into grocery and food delivery services to have what you need brought to you (and left safely at your closed door, of course).
Once you have your day-to-day needs sorted out, consider what you will do if your symptoms start to feel more severe.
“Knowing ahead of time what you’re watching out for, and what you will do if that does happen, helps you to feel in control and to cut back on some of the constant worrying,” says Dr. Trestman.
For COVID-19, the biggest concern is shortness of breath. If you start experiencing shortness of breath, you should call for emergency care right away.
Ask your provider what else you should be paying attention to, and don’t hesitate to contact him or her with any concerns or questions you may have while self-isolating.
Consider How to Care for Your Kids
If you have children, start lining up your support network and decide who will look after them if your symptoms get bad enough to interfere with their daily care.
“As parents, one of the biggest things we worry about is what will happen to our kids if we get sick,” says Dr. Trestman. “Knowing that your children will be safe no matter what will put your mind—and theirs—at ease.”
“Maybe you know someone who has already been self-isolating, but who is asymptomatic or feeling much better now. Perhaps they could take your kids in for a few days if necessary,” he suggests.
If your children do stay at home with you while you recuperate, don’t hesitate to ask them to take on some of the work you would normally do. A sense of contribution can make a powerful tool for helping them manage the anxiety they might be feeling.
“Children respond best when they feel like they matter and play an important role in the family,” says Dr. Trestman. “Giving your kids meaningful, age-appropriate chores to do while you’re resting will make them feel good!”
And while some household “rules” may understandably go by the wayside while you recover, one thing Dr. Trestman doesn’t recommend is allowing unlimited video games or television.
Instead, he suggests that parents encourage activities like board games to keep the family engaging with one another.
Staying as busy as your symptoms and energy level will allow can help ease your anxiety. You can:
- Catch up on your reading list
- Try some relaxing arts or crafts
- Do some organizing or light spring cleaning
- Ask a friend to drop off ingredients, then cook or bake a recipe you’ve always wanted to try
- Reach out to family and friends—maybe even distant relatives or old pals you’ve lost touch with lately—on Facetime, WhatsApp or a similar platform
Take This Time to Do Something Meaningful for Yourself
“We all have those things we’ve always wanted to do, but have never found the time for,” says Dr. Trestman. “Maybe this time in isolation is your opportunity in disguise.”
Dedicating this time to a long-held interest or goal gives you something to focus on instead of your symptoms or worries. And, being able to find some meaning in a difficult situation is an important aspect of mental well-being.
Just a few of the possibilities you can pursue:
- Write that novel you’ve always planned
- Take that musical instrument out of storage and practice
- Start learning a new language
- Read a self-improvement book or biography of someone you admire
- Learn a valuable new job skill or research a career path you’ve always been interested in
“The goal is to come out of this physically healthy and mentally healthy, too,” says Dr. Trestman.
“Hopefully you can look back, not feeling like you’ve lost weeks of your life, but feeling like you’ve taken this time to enrich yourself in some way.”
This content was reviewed April 8, 2020 by Robert L. Trestman, Ph.D., M.D., chair of Carilion Clinic Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine.
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