How to stay positive if you’re positive
DR SHERI FANAROFF
Much of this fear is based on concern about a bad outcome and anticipation of the worst-case scenario. Patients’ minds race to images of being alone in an intensive-care unit on a ventilator, dying and separated from their families. They worry about which family members they have unknowingly infected.
They also feel anxious about the stigma associated with testing positive. Will they be blamed for getting infected and shunned by the community? There is concern about not being able to go to work, with a resulting loss of income.
The isolation that follows a COVID-19-positive diagnosis brings with it more unique anxieties. It’s especially difficult to have to isolate from your family and support systems.
Emotional reactions that can occur during quarantine or isolation include:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones;
- Stress from monitoring yourself. Am I feeling short of breath? Are my oxygen levels ok? Is my fever too high?
- Worry about needing to go to hospital;
- Sadness, anger, or frustration because friends or loved ones are afraid of getting the disease from you;
- Guilt about not being able to perform normal parenting and work duties because you are sick or in quarantine; and
Strategies to reduce anxiety include:
- Eating, drinking, and sleeping properly;
- Thinking about and using strategies that have helped in the past to cope with stressful situations;
- Limiting the time you spend reading about COVID-19, listening to the news, and on social media. Finding a balance between keeping informed and not becoming overwhelmed;
- Finding a reliable source of information, and checking your facts on reputable websites or with your doctor;
- Empowering yourself with knowledge about how to monitor your symptoms and which medicines and vitamins you should be taking. (Your GP can guide you);
- Registering with the Hatzolah Wellness programme. It will provide you with a thermometer and a pulse oximeter, check in with you daily, and alert your doctor if there is any deterioration;
- Deliberately spending time engaging with tasks that take your mind away from the current crisis;
- Taking breaks and time away from your phone and electronics;
- Staying in touch with friends and family. If you can’t see them, make time for regular phone calls, Zoom sessions, or video calls;
- Focusing on the things that are in your control. You can control your own actions, but not those of others. For example, you can’t control what others do, but you can keep distant, wear your mask, and stay home;
- Focusing on what you do know as opposed to what you don’t. For example, you know that most people who get the virus will have mild symptoms. You don’t know there will be a need for you to go to hospital;
- Being kind to yourself and others;
- Offering others help and support where you can – it’s good for your own anxiety;
- If you feel overwhelmed, get support. Reach out to family and friends. Contact your doctor or a psychologist for counselling and support if you aren’t coping;
- Maintaining a good routine, even if you’re at home;
- If you feel well enough, plan regular activities that you enjoy;
- Remember that you aren’t alone in this situation. Most of the world is going through a similar experience.
As we enter this challenging time of rising infections, some anxiety is normal. Take things day by day. We will all get through this together. Remember to keep some perspective – the pandemic will end. This won’t last forever.
- Dr Sheri Fanaroff is a GP in private practice in Johannesburg.