Medical expert offers advice to ward off anxiety induced by current COVID-19 situation

By Ellalyn de Vera-Ruiz

Use "positive distraction" activities to ward off feelings of fear and anxiety caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a medical expert advised.

According to Medical City psychiatrist Joyce Maglaque, the uncertainty of the present situation has triggered the fight-or-flight response among some Filipinos.

"It is natural to be more stressed or to be more anxious when faced by an abnormal situation, especially during a crisis, just like what we are experiencing now," Maglaque said in an interview over DZBB.

"A person who has been consistently afraid and anxious has his or her fight-or-flight alert system switched on all the time. At this point, distraction techniques must be done," she said.

Maglaque pointed out that "distraction" does not mean just watching Netflix all day. "A good distraction is geared towards self-care or doing self-soothing techniques," she said.

One of these techniques, she noted, is meditation "which allows us to take a pause, especially if our brain is in an alarm state."

Maglaque also cited following the STOP technique--Stop what you are doing, Take time to breathe, Observe your emotion, and Perceive what that emotion is all about.

"Stop everything, and take breaths. A proper breathing exercise is like imagining yourself savoring the taste of a coffee in front of you. Inhale from the nose and exhale through the mouth. Take 10 breaths by inhaling slowly, pause, then exhale using your mouth," she explained.

"You have to observe what you are feeling and what is bothering you by doing so freely without any judgment. It is okay to feel stressed, but you have to bring yourself back to the present," she added.

"Lastly, perceive what your emotion is all about. What then should you do? What's the best way to respond? Do you think it is okay to pay attention to what you are feeling or you think you have other things to do and just have to deal with your feelings after?" Maglaque said.

She cited that following the STOP technique allows the hyperactivity of fear and anxiety centers of a human brain to relax.

Maglaque also advised the public to take time to reflect, appreciate little things, or learn new worthwhile activities.

"What we have to watch out for is when a person could no longer do simple things like sleeping, eating, or taking a bath. That is what we call pathological anxiety. If it does reach this point, a person has to already seek medical consultation," she said.