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Confinement, day 2: five WHO recommendations to “preserve mental health”


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Coronavirus: how to spend your time well in confinement

TIPS – As France enters its second day of movement restrictions and population containment, the World Health Organization is giving its advice to preserve mental health.

Containment, day 2. The measures to restrict movement of the population, taken to limit the spread of the coronavirus in France, must last 15 days. At least. If we follow the Chinese or Italian models, several weeks of home confinement are expected. But to go around in circles everyone at home, sometimes far from their loved ones, perhaps being on partial unemployment … Boredom and anxiety are mounting quickly.

The prospect of major psychological consequences for the citizens affected by these measures was quickly anticipated by health institutions. The World Health Organization (WHO), which depends on the UN, has therefore issued recommendations to preserve his mental health during this ordeal. Astrid Chevance, psychiatrist and doctoral student in epidemiology in Paris, is currently translating them so that France can apply them as best as possible. She comments on them for LCI.

Caring for each other

“Protect and support each other”: the organization calls for the solidarity of the population above all, in particular by offering to give their telephone number to their neighbors, or to people who may need help additional. She also urges “to find opportunities to share positive and hopeful stories about people who have recovered from Covid-19”.

In general, “being in touch with others” is essential to get through this crisis. It is important to create or maintain contact with loved ones but also with elderly or isolated people, who must not remain without social ties during this intense moment of stress. “The elderly, who sometimes have cognitive problems, may be more stressed or even aggressive,” warns Astrid Chevance. “We must try to be very clear, with appropriate information on the current situation.” We must also ensure that our seniors have the necessary drugs, without robbing pharmacies. “It is unreasonable to go and take months and months of treatment, a two-week advance is enough,” said the psychiatrist.

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You should also avoid taking alcohol and psychotropic drugs. “These are strategies that may seem profitable at the time to reduce stress, but in the long term it is disastrous,” says Dr. Chevance. The euphoria caused by these substances generally gives way to a hard “descent” to break when you cannot leave your home or clear your mind. To reduce anxiety, it is better to focus on dialogue and relaxation.

Reinvent and maintain a daily routine

WHO recommendations also recommend that in the event of confinement, one must “try to maintain a routine close to the usual routine”. In other words, avoid fat mattress, get dressed, get active and eat at fixed times, avoid excess. Even if you are tempted, it is better to avoid snacking all day long. At the same time not to disturb our lifestyle, but especially because an increase in food rations would not be healthy with the drop in activity due to home care.

Astrid Chevance, a psychiatrist in Paris, also insists particularly on the importance of “not shifting your sleep-wake cycle”. It is once again very tempting, but it is not because we have no obligations in the morning that we must stay up until dawn. “You have to get up, open the shutters, try to get as much light as possible into the house and maintain basic physical activity, including if you stay completely inside,” she said. . “If you lie on a bed day and night, sleep disorders can appear or intensify.”

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“Children are particularly routine,” added the psychiatrist. This confinement situation can be very confusing for them. So with your little ones at home, you have to imagine a schedule for school work, for creative activities, to play with the rest of the family, to rest, etc. “You have to arrange something that resembles their daily life, invent a new routine so that when they get up, they will know more or less what awaits them during the day, and the next day,” advises Dr. Chevance.

Listening to children

“In times of stress and crisis, children often seek more affection and ask more of their parents,” warns Astrid Chevance, still relying on WHO recommendations. “They can be clingy, without being able to verbalize their stress,” says the psychiatrist. To unblock the speech and the concerns of the youngest, “it is necessary to speak about the Covid-19 by being sincere, honest and by using a vocabulary appropriate for their age”, announces the WHO.

“We should not sweep away the anxieties of children but understand what is bothering them, keeping in mind that their concerns are not always those of adults,” continues the doctor. A 3 year old child may be sad to see their toy store closed. An 8-year-old child may be afraid that his comrades will die from the epidemic. A 13 year old child can be demoralized at the idea of ​​not seeing his or her lover for months. The best solution, talk about it and suggest solutions: call friends, relatives for whom they are concerned, for example. We must also avoid separating children from those who usually take care of them. And if long periods of separation are still to be expected, it is ideal to maintain regular contact with the family, with daily calls.

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Protect yourself from over-information

“You have to minimize the time you spend watching, reading or listening to information that makes you feel anxious and stressed.” A recommendation in the top 3 of the advice provided by the WHO. According to the organization, it is preferable to seek “practical” information on the official websites of national authorities or international bodies, “to organize yourself and to protect yourself and your loved ones”.

“It does not help to stay in front of the TV to worry,” confirms Dr. Chevance. She stresses that it is also preferable to “limit its updating of information to one or two dedicated moments during the day”. A way to protect yourself from rumors and fake news, and to focus on the factual without being overwhelmed. “Knowing the facts can help reduce fear,” but “a continuous flow of information can distress anyone,” said the UN.

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Changing Your Look at the Virus

WHO devotes the first two paragraphs of its recommendations on mental health, prejudice and harmful ideas accusing people infected with the virus of being responsible for the epidemic. “The Covid-19 has spread in many countries. It has no connection with ethnicity or nationality. Let us be empathetic with all those affected in any country whatsoever,” said the organization. . The anti-Asian racism that has grown in France since the arrival of the virus testifies particularly to these allegations concerning populations supposedly carrying the virus. “The people affected by Covid-19 have done nothing wrong and they need our support, compassion and kindness,” said the organization.

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“It is human nature to look for someone responsible, for the culprits, to blame other countries and other cultures,” said Dr Chevance. “It is not constructive, it is better to put your energy into respecting the instructions and fighting against the virus,” she advises. The psychiatrist also recalls that a virus “has no intentions, it strikes everyone, does not care about borders”.

Likewise, WHO proposes to avoid speaking of sick people as “Covid 19 cases” or “Covid 19 families”, stigmatizing and dehumanizing words. “It is better to talk about people”, confirms Astrid Chevance. People who have coronavirus, who are being treated for, or who have recovered from it. She translates the main reason for this as follows: “After the epidemic, their professional, family and emotional life will resume. It is important to separate the person from the disease.”

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