Early January 2020, reports of a new virus began to seep into my consciousness. Mid-January 2020, I had what appeared to be ‘the flu’. By late January I was terribly ill. I am asthmatic and the constant wheezing and shortness of breath was beginning to scare me.
It is now late March 2020 and I have made a full recovery from the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Media reports now detail hundreds of new cases being discovered daily around the world. The death toll is growing and the requirement to self-isolate is no longer optional.
Social media is consumed with images of empty supermarket shelves, outcries at the injustice of social distancing, and conspiracies of who ‘started’ the virus.
I decided to write this article to help shed some light on what to expect if you do contract the disease. As a psychotherapist, I’d also like to share some ideas on how to remain calm during this crisis.
What Is Novel Coronavirus COVID-19?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 7 types of coronavirus. Named ‘corona’ because of the crown-like spikes on their surface, the disease was first identified in the mid-1960s. The latest outbreak, number 7 on the list, is caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. Its official name is ‘novel coronavirus COVID-19.’
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
The first cases of COVID -19 surfaced in Wuhan, China in late 2019, and the disease has since spread globally. Cases are now being reported on every continent, giving the WHO cause to declare COVID-19 a pandemic.
How I Contracted COVID-19
While it isn’t entirely clear when or how I contracted the disease, we now know that Italy is one of the epicenters where the outbreak has had a devastating impact. I visited Milan for Christmas 2019, and had a wonderful time. I ate amazing food, stayed at a beautiful boutique hotel, and visited the busy shopping areas.
At the time there had been no reports of cases of COVID-19 anywhere outside of China. The first cases in Italy were confirmed on 31 January 2020, long after I had returned home to the UK.
How I Survived the Novel Coronavirus
The symptoms of novel coronavirus COVID-19 are typical flu-like symptoms. Far worse than a common cold, the early symptoms were stomach flu, a fever, and nasal congestion. As time went on, my dry throat exacerbated my hacking cough, my lungs became congested, and I had real difficulty breathing.
At one point I began to feel better, then it suddenly took a turn for the worse. They say this relapse is one of the symptoms of coronavirus, but I didn’t learn this until much later on. At the time I still thought I just had the winter flu, but I was so ill that I had no choice but to visit the doctor where I was diagnosed and treated.
My Tips for Staying Calm Through the Pandemic
We are now in the midst of a full blown coronavirus pandemic.
People are panic-stricken. They’re worried about their parents, their elderly relatives and friends, and their children. They’re scared of losing their jobs and having to be on ‘lockdown’ for the foreseeable future.
While I don’t know what the future holds, as a psychotherapist my responsibility is to help people take care of their mental health. So, here are a few tips to help you reduce any panic, fear, or anxiety as a result of this outbreak.
There are plenty of meditation resources available if you don’t know where to start. I always recommend a simple 5-10 minute breathing meditation for beginners.
If you are very worried, it can be difficult to sleep. Try a sleep story or meditation just before bed, and get as much rest as you can.
Practice some yoga to keep your immune system fully charged, ease the tension in your body, and clear your mind of worry.
4. Practice Self-Care
This is a great time for self-care and reflection. Be kind to yourself, take a bubble bath, drink soothing herbal teas, or read a good book.
Remember, we’re all in this together. Keep your mind calm and your body strong, and you’ll see just how much more powerful you feel in overcoming these times of uncertainty.