Navya Singh, PsyD: Maintaining Normalcy During the Coronavirus Crisis

MARCH 23, 2020
Kenny Walter
As more and more people are working from home due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, it remains important to maintain a regular routine in the face of the abnormal situation.

In an interview with HCPLive®, Navya Singh, PysD, Columbia University, explained how people can maintain their mental health as they are pretty much confined to their homes during the emergency situation.

HCPLive: What is the biggest thing you are currently stressing to people?

Singh: First of all, things are changing every day. For the past 2 weeks, the 1 thing that I would lead with is prepare, don't panic. Because at this point most people are either already impacted or preparing to be impacted by this in some way or another.

Staying calm, staying focused, and thinking of this as an event that's finite. I mean, it might take longer for things to get back to how they used to be or what we considered normal, but think of it as something that’s for now, and we all need to abide by certain policies and procedures. But if you prepare well enough emotionally as well as in logistically, we should all be fine, we should be able to cope.

HCPLive: What is the main reason people have bought such large quantitates of groceries in preparation for the potential quarantine?

Singh: When we think of preparing for something like a hurricane or a snowstorm, the first thing we do is we go to the store and buy groceries, toilet paper, and all the essentials. Most of us are doing this once every few years, you stock up your house.

This case is slightly different, but I think it triggered that automatic response in us to some extent because there’s so much unknown. We go into the state of storing for the next week or so in our homes. Things like this happen, but it just escalated so quickly, and people didn’t have time to prepare.

HCPLive: How difficult is it for people to self-isolate and what are some of the issues that may occur?

Singh: So again, it's a very difficult situation. And right now, we've just started social isolation. We don't know how long it's going to last.

Humans are social creatures or social animals, that's how we live. Relationships are the key to most of our identity, and face-to-face is very important, seeing people, talking to them.

Walking on the streets, if you're the only 1 walking it feels very isolating and lonely. Whereas if there's other people, even if you're not interacting, it's sort of what gives us comfort.

We need to think of this as one of those situations where we need to focus on taking care of ourselves and understand the situation.

In the digital age, physical contact is still important, but we have ways to be connected. Try to focus on new ways of enhancing that. There are so many people that most of us haven't called in years, or been thinking about calling them for months but haven't had the chance. So, make a list of people.

HCPLive: How much information about the coronavirus should be consume daily?

Singh: What I usually tell people is we all need to be informed; we all want to know what's happening. Set aside time during the day, like 5 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes, when you read about it, where you can even talk about it.

But other than that, don't let the coronavirus take over your life without even being infected.

HCPLive: With the workforce working from home, how important is it for people to maintain a similar routine as before?

Singh: I think that is critical to do. Wake up at the same time in the morning, even if you're working in the next room. Normalcy is important because the situation is so difficult and outside the realm of what's normal existence.

Even the children, try to have the same schedule as they had in school, even if you’re homeschooling.

HCPLive: While self-isolating, is it important for people to get some fresh air?

Singh: Fresh air is good, but maintain the 6 feet of distance. If we all think we'll be the only ones going out, then everyone will be outside.

If you have a yard or a balcony, stand outside, but again make sure you are in a medically recommended distance. If you're in an isolated place, going out for a run or a walk is fine.

HCPLive: How does the fact that this is a global event change how we relate to it?

Singh: I think it's really important. I think it makes us more empathic to the situation. It also lets us know how important it is for us to follow the right procedures and processes.

It's not just us or our neighborhood, it's everyone's been impacted and things like this aren't restricted to geography.

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