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Mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak

The current situation surrounding COVID-19 has resulted in many people experiencing high levels of stress. It can be a particularly difficult time for international students, many of whom already face challenges such as separation from family and friends back home, language/cultural barriers, and limited social networks. In this time of COVID-19, stress from “normal” difficulties can be magnified, so it is more important than ever to take care of your physical and mental health. Below are some tips and information that can help you cope during this difficult time.

Get accurate information

Incorrect information and rumors are easily spread, causing confusion and increasing risk. Getting accurate information on COVID-19 is very important in order to protect yourself and the people around you. In addition, having accurate information can help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety related to the situation. Here are some reliable sources of information:
Minstry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW): About Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
World Health Organization (WHO): Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Pandemic

Centers for Disease Control (CDC): Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Take steps to prevent getting sick and spreading the virus
✓After entering a building, wash your hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based disinfectant (at least 70% alcohol) if it is not possible to wash your hands.
    MHLW: Correct way to wash hands.
✓Clean and disinfect frequently touched areas with alcohol, bleach, or other equally effective substances.
 CDC: Cleaning And Disinfecting Your Home
✓Cough or sneeze into a mask, or cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Throw used tissues in a trash can.
✓Do not touch your face or hair.
✓Avoid crowded spaces and any nonessential or non-urgent outings.
 
Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Of course, taking care of your body is important for physical health, but a healthy body can also help you maintain good mental health, as well as support resiliency in stressful situations. Try to wake up early, eat healthy and well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

 
Set small, concrete goals, and do things that give you a sense of accomplishment

Try to shift your focus to things you can do in the present moment. This may include simple tasks like cleaning your room or doing the laundry, or stress-relieving, fun activities, such as listening to music, watching movies, reading books, doing yoga, working out at home, drawing or painting, making handicrafts, or enjoying a nice meal. It may feel rewarding to do something you were unable to do previously due to lack of time, or you may want to try something completely new!

 
Stay connected—avoid becoming completely isolated

Social isolation can have a negative impact on mental health. Try to stay connected with friends and family via telephone, SNS, or communication apps. Share your feelings regularly—don’t worry alone. Find time to talk with people you are comfortable with, such as family, friends, or teachers. And remember that university health center counselors are also available to help and support you; do not hesitate to contact them.

 
Try to focus on things you can do or control in the present

Instead of constantly worrying about the overall COVID-19 situation, which is beyond our control, try to focus on things you can do in your day-to-day life, including preventive behaviors (e.g., washing your hands frequently) and regular daily tasks. This can help you keep anxiety under control.

 

WHO: Mental health and COVID-19

CDC: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Stress and Coping


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