Combatting Coronavirus with Virginia Prescott

Combatting Coronavirus with Virginia Prescott / GPB

Across Georgia and the nation, schools and businesses are closed, major events have been canceled, and millions of people have been ordered to work from home to help mitigate the spread of the Novel Coronavirus — or Covid -19. Life as we know it has been disrupted. People are scared and looking for solid information.

Georgia Public Broadcasting’s new series “What You Need To Know: Coronavirus” provides fact-based information on getting through the virus with health and sanity intact. 

GPB’s Virginia Prescott spoke with Dr. Nadine Kaslow about dealing with the mounting anxieties during this potentially isolating stage of the epidemic. She’s professor and vice-chair in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine and Chief Psychologist for Grady Health System Atlanta. She’s also past President of the American Psychological Association. 

Here are some takeaways from the conversation.

Saying “Don’t Panic” isn’t helpful 

You can’t just tell somebody people not to panic. Some people are more hard-wired to panic than others, their life situations may be more challenging. I think it’s more realistic to sort of balance your anxiety to the extent that you can, manage it to the extent that you can. Try to care of yourself and other people right now. Telling people to stay calm is not realistic right now. But on the other hand, try to keep some perspective. 

Take care of yourself and problem solve with others

Another thing is spending time, even if it’s just a few minutes each day, grounding yourself. I know people say "I cant do that right now, I’m trying to figure so many things out." The truth is that if we can settle ourselves down, whether with meditation or exercise or a hot bath, or whatever it is actually helps us be better able to go forward.

Manage your information intake

We have to manage how much we’re getting information. We are bombarded with information that continuously is changing, with updates coming in all the time with new information. We have to find ways to get enough information to know what’s going on, but not so much that all you do is focus on this situation. 

Take time to talk with your kids   

We have to serve as role models for our kids. The more they see that we are overwhelmed, panicked, stressed out, the more difficulty they’re going to have. Except for really young children, they all know what’s going on right now. Their daycares are closed, they’re not seeing their friends. It’s really important to put time aside everyday and sit down with your kids and answer their questions, talk to them in a way that they can understand, allay their fears in a way that’s realistic, and monitor how much information exposure they have. 

Keeping up with routines while kids are at home

It’s critical that you keep up the routines as regular as you can. Let them know that everybody’s not going to sleep all day long or spend the day in pajamas in their bedrooms. Get them out as much as you can, even if it’s to another part of the home if you can’t get out much. Keep up bedtime routines. 

This is actually a time when social media can be a good thing. For kids to stay connected with their friends is so important right now and doing homework, but also doing fun activities, having as much pleasure as they can even if they’re quarantined in the home.  

Build community

It’s so important that we do serve our communities right now. I see more and more people pooling resources, like sending out lists of low cost child care or maybe offering to take care of kids on Mondays and Wednesdays and someone else do other days. We can help each other out in small ways. We’re going to have to come together as a city and a state and towns and help each other get through this incredibly difficult time when things are so unpredictable and so scary. 

Shift the focus from economic insecurity 

For most people, the most helpful thing (although I understand it’s not realistic for some people) is to try to stay as present focused as we can and to take care of things we can control right now. The more we can stay present and not look at our number every day, or multiple times a day, but try to keep a broader perspective on this and knowing that for ALL of us this is going to be very tough. Everybody is going to be financially worried. We have to be supportive of each other and systems have to be as flexible and accommodating as they can.  

Share your strategies

We need to all find a balance with this in multiple ways. Taking care of ourselves and taking care of other people. Being appropriately concerned but not overly obsessed, and recognizing that this is such a difficult and unprecedented time and we are all learning together how to do this and that the more we find ways and strategies that are helpful to ourselves and to share them with other people, the better off we’re going to be.