Overwhelmed and Over Quarantine

Edited by Jasmine Ryu Won Kang

Coronavirus. Vaccine. Quarantine. Lockdown. These are four words that have now been introduced into our vocabulary on a daily basis over the past year. Every day we look down at our phones or turn on the news and we see the headlines with these words plastered everywhere on the screen. Although the news is meant to keep us informed, it is also can have a negative impact on our mental health. In my own experience, there was a period of time when simply receiving the news notification on my phone gave me such anxiety, making it harder to focus on any other tasks for the rest of the day. So, I have come up with four strategies specifically related to processing the news regarding COVID-19 that will keep you informed and will also protect your mental health.

There is a lot of news circling around about the virus - how do I know what is true?

I’m glad you asked. Since this is a global pandemic, every person has a different opinion about the virus and the correct way to go about returning to “normal times." This can be overwhelming when information is flying at your brain from every direction. In order to cope with this and actually draw out the necessary information, I focus primarily on reputable sources such as updates provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC)  that have studied the virus extensively and are trying their best to inform the public about successful practices that will limit the spread of the virus. It is wise to follow the advice of government health officials in your area as well. This way if there are any new procedures, closures, or changes to everyday life, you will have the information necessary.

Some people believe that the vaccine does more harm than good - how do I know what to believe?

This is a normal concern that many people in the population share. The important thing to remember is the vaccines have been tested countless times since the public’s safety is the top priority. I would also advise doing research about the ingredients in the vaccines if you are worried that you may have an allergic reaction. If you have a lot of concerns, it is best to talk to your doctor so they can provide an in-depth explanation of the different brands of the vaccine and how it works to help the immune system. Sometimes the news only focuses on the bad effects and neglects the success stories. It's vital to consider both sides before making a conclusion regarding something as important as the vaccine.

I keep hearing about all the deaths that have resulted, and it makes me anxious - what should I do?

This once again is normal. COVID-19 is a fatal disease and many people have lost their lives from it. However, if you follow the guidelines by your government and wear a face covering or mask you decrease your chances of getting sick. Your chances of being infected will never be zero; there is always a risk of infection. From my own experience, I remember feeling like a weight had fallen on my chest hearing about the large number of deaths and the increasing infection rate. However, there is hope at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine. Hearing about the dire situation of the pandemic should encourage the public to follow procedures, maintain social distancing, wear a mask, and stay at home to prevent the spread.

I feel like I am being consumed by the news as I try to stay updated - what should I do?

It’s good to stay informed but there is a capacity that can be reached. I often felt this way during the first few months of quarantine. I would suggest turning off news notifications about two hours before your bedtime. This way you will be able to wind down for the day without the negative information the news often provides. I would also suggest only viewing the news through updates on your phone or laptop. Currently, I have set up my news app to send me a notification regarding breaking news of the pandemic. When I receive an alert, I can then look at the information that is being presented in the little notification blurb, and if I feel it’s necessary I can read more information through the article attached to the notification. However, I do not open the news app even when I am bored. I set aside certain times in the day, such as watching the 6 pm News in Toronto that gives highlights and necessary information of the day. After the news is over, I go outside and breathe in the fresh air and remind myself that everyone is struggling during these times. Sometimes after feeling really overwhelmed, I try to connect with friends and family through the phone or online platforms such as Zoom too.

In these troubling times, the news is a vital source of information that can connect us all, but it should be observed in moderation because it can cause us to have overwhelming thoughts. By staying informed through reputable sources and listening to the advice of health officials, we can all stay safe during this pandemic.