Psychologist Dr. Elise Reeh reached out to us and asked if she could contribute an article on how to survive the COVID-19 crisis from a health perspective.
Mission... there are so many heroes in our community right now.
COVID-19: Stopping the Hamster Brain from Taking Over Your World
There is plenty of information in the media on how to cope with the COVID-19 crisis in terms of social distancing, hand washing, and personal symptom monitoring.
How can we cope with the mental health impacts of this crisis?
The most common reactions to this crisis are fear and worry, which come from the uncertainty of not knowing what will happen to you and your loved ones.
Will I catch it?
Will they catch it?
Will they die?
The brain does not like uncertainty. It can act like a hamster in an exercise wheel. It can get stuck in an endless loop of worrying about things that will likely never happen.
While worrying about these future unlikely events, the present moment is lost and clouded with negativity. This process can also lead to other physical symptoms such as stomach upset, headache , etc.
If you are struggling with hamster brain, here are some things you and your loved ones can do. First you need to switch your thoughts to having gratitude and being in the present moment. Ask yourself, “What things am I grateful for right now?”
Do you appreciate that you do not have to spend three hours a day commuting in traffic?
That you and your loved ones are healthy right now?
That you have extra time to do fun things? That you live in Canada?
The next thing you can do to calm the hamster brain is to do a ten-minute meditation. Daily meditation tends to lower our general sense of nervousness. There are several great guided meditations available on the internet (including Dr. Reeh’s meditation on YouTube).
The current COVID-19 crisis has had devastating health and financial consequences for people around the world. Feeling upset is normal. Spending a lot of the day and night in a hamster wheel is not normal and healthy.
Many of us have acquired extra time due to the stay-at-home directives. We can use this time wisely by enhancing our ability to cope with this crisis and with future stressors in our lives. We can switch our brains from engaging in unhealthy habits to healthy habits such as having gratitude and practicing meditation.
Dr. H. Elise Reeh has been a Psychologist since 1995.
She has an office in the Mission Midwives building on 7327 Horne Street where she sees adults and couples.