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  • How to Cope With Anxiety When You Can't Go Out, According To Top Pinoy Psychiatrist

    Too much anxiety over COVID-19 can lead to depression.
    by Dahl D. Bennett .
How to Cope With Anxiety When You Can't Go Out, According To Top Pinoy Psychiatrist
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  • For some people, the lockdown and quarantine are a reprieve from the busy lives we used to lead. But for others, it is a source of anxiety.

    Anxiety is a normal part of life and is not bad, says renowned Philippine psychiatrist, Dr. Cornelio Banaag, who was the special guest of The Medical City Psychiatry Department’s #MH Talks (Mental Health Talks). Dr. Banaag was the first guest during its first airing held last April 2.

    Signs of anxiety

    “Normal sa tao magkaroon ng anxiety pero kung minsan lumalampas yung anxiety sa normal levels. Pag lumampas na, nagiging kalaban na natin,” says Dr. Banaag. “Marami tayong nararamdaman na kaugnay sa anxiety pero di natin alam na anxiety na pala,” he adds.

    There are several, mostly physical, signs that suggest that the anxiety we feel is already beyond the regular kind. Dr. Banaag enumerates the following:

    • Palpitation or faster heartbeat where the person always seems to be anticipating that something terrible will happen
    • Difficulty falling asleep because negative thoughts disrupt if not prevent sleep.
    • Restlessness and not knowing the source (you pace the floor without resulting in anything productive)
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    Social distancing, quarantine, and the lockdown are all something new to us and can trigger a yearning for the usual routine we used to have, says Dr. Banaag. “Suddenly, we are stripped of all the daily things that we do, and we have this 24 hours to ourselves, and we don’t know what to do with it.”

    Social distancing is a new phenomenon to most because people, in general, are social beings and naturally seek the company of others, Dr. Banaag points out.

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    Dr. Banaag warns, however, that the phenomenon with the most impact on our mental health is uncertainty. “It’s a major root of anxiety. Wala kang control. Mabilis aakyat [ang anxiety] to the point na marami ka nang sintomas — masakit ulo mo, ‘di makapag isip, ‘di ka makatulog, mawawalan ka ng ganang kumain, iritable ka na. At ang malungkot, pag na-prolong talaga, nagkakaroon ng depression.”

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    How to cope with anxiety during quarantine

    If we find ourselves manifesting some of the signs of ‘abnormal’ anxiety, Dr. Banaag says there are several ways to cope with it even if we are confined in our homes.

    1 Plan your day

    Make a schedule of what you intend to do. Accomplish it within the day from the time you wake up to the time you sleep. It will give you a sense of direction.

    2 Follow the rhythm of day and night

    Our lives follow a rhythm guided by light and dark, says Dr. Banaag. “Pag nagising tayo at may light na titigil na ang production ng melatonin sa brain natin, then mag-iisip na tayo ng gagawin. Pag nag-dilim na, inaantok na tayo. So we have to know anong gagawin natin between those light and dark periods.” 

    He adds that we should try to sleep at the same time as much as possible and allot eight to nine hours for sleep.

    3 Use social media to connect

    Dr. Banaag recognizes that doing things inside the home has limits. We can use social media by helping us connect with our friends and loved ones.

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    4 Be kind to your body

    The quarantine allows us to focus on our physical health through exercise. “We may not realize it, but we have been abusing our body,” says Dr. Banaag, citing that some have to wake up at 4 a.m. to commute to work to avoid traffic.

    Others do not eat on time or continuously do overtime because of the demands of work. “Good mental health is dependent on good physical health. Gaganda ang disposisyon at pananaw mo,” he says.

    5 Know when to avoid the news

    Too much bad news agitates our mental state. It is crucial to find that balance where we know ‘enough’ to keep us ready and prepared. But we also know when to avoid it so as not to be overwhelmed, shares Dr. Banaag. “Pag feeling mo nao-overdose ka ng news, siguro itigil mo na. Iregulate mo na.”

    6 Be mindful and know when to retreat

    Dr. Banaag says that it is essential to avoid fake news or misinformation as they are designed to trigger stress. Be aware as well, when negative thoughts creep in, he adds. “Wag natin papaniwalaan parati [ang iniisip natin]. Wag mong takutin sarili mo.”

    This is the time of mindfulness, he reminds the public. “We have to be mindful of the way our mind works and the way we handle our mental activities. We have to know when to retreat and do something else, so we don’t get overwhelmed.”

    You can read here about the Department of Health's free telemedicine consultation.

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    Ateneo Bulatao Center for Psychological Services is offering free Psychological First Aid (PFA) sessions to frontliners, patients under investigation (PUIs), and persons under monitoring (PUMs). Read more here

    Read here where to find free medical consultations online. 

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