The increase in the number of people affected by COVID-19 (coronavirus) has generated great concern, and has forced a number of countries to implement measures in order to stop the spreading of the virus. These measures are, in many countries, very restrictive and can include social distancing and working from home in a situation of self-quarantine or isolation, in order to avoid infection of self, and others.
The information we receive every day increases the concern and fear of the general population, and especially of patients such as myeloma and AL amyloidosis patients, who can feel particularly vulnerable during this coronavirus outbreak. We cannot forget that cancer patients, and especially those who are currently receiving treatment have a weakened immune system, putting them at higher risk of infection generally and this also applies to coronavirus.
Situations arising due to the restrictive measures taken by countries to prevent the spread of disease, such as quarantine, will change routines for people for considerable periods of time. This in itself can be a difficult time, and may cause negative thoughts, and feelings of fear and anxiety. We know that in some countries, this quarantine will last a month or more in fact, we still don’t know how long this could be, and how long the restrictions will be in place. Due to this, it is now more important than ever to make time to take care of your own physical and mental health.
With the help of Fátima Castaño, psycho-oncologist, MPE has summarised below some tips that will help you to cope, in the best way possible, with confinement:
Take some time to make your home environment comfortable and relaxing, not only your physical environment, but also with things that can help you to de-stress and promote enjoyment, such as books, music or other things that can help you to occupy your time, and mind in a positive way.
A routine is always good for your physical and mental health. During this period maintaining your normal routine as much as possible, or creating a routine for yourself, can help you to stay feeling healthy and happy. Make sure your routine during this period considers healthy habits such as diet, sleep, physical activity and free time.
Don’t spend the whole day in your pyjamas! Being at home doesn’t mean you can’t start your day in the same way as you did before the quarantine. This can help you to feel more connected with your normal habits and with the outside world, and can improve your feelings of positivity and productivity!
If you are working from home during this period, and you are able to do so, try and differentiate the area you use to work, and the area you use to enjoy your free time. Try and set up a “Home Office” with all the equipment around you to do your job as normally as possible. This can include using a spare room, or corner of your home, as a “work zone”. If you have the possibility to do so, try and keep this work zone separate to the place where you spend your free time so you also have a space to relax and unwind after your working day.
Confinement can feel lonely, and it is important to acknowledge this to prevent feeling isolated and disconnected from your normal life and the outside world. Although no doubt there will be restrictions on being physically close to your friends, family and loved ones, there are luckily other ways to keep in touch. Scheduling video calls, regular phone calls, and maintaining contact through emails, messaging services and social media are all ways that technology can help you to stay connected to your loved ones. Working from home can also feel isolating if you are used to working in an office setting. Think about scheduling regular update calls or videocalls with your team, colleagues, boss and other partners to make sure that you continue to feel part of your working environment.
The amount of information we are all receiving about the coronavirus outbreak, through the news, social media, local and national government, and our healthcare providers, can feel overwhelming at times, and it is sometimes difficult to prevent this from making us think or feel negative emotions, such as fear, anxiety or despair. If you find this is the case, try and limit the amount of information you are receiving about the outbreak. It may be useful to ration your use of information sources; perhaps limit the amount of time you spend on social media, watching the news, or reading about the outbreak online. Whilst it is important to stay informed, it is easy to become so focused on this that it can impact your daily life, and your wellbeing.
Your healthcare professional may have suggested changes to your treatment during this time. These may include changes to your treatment schedule or medication. Understandably, this could be confusing for you, and could make you question your new plan of care, or your doctor. You might also be worried about changes in side effects, or efficacy of your new routine. Please try to remember that, if your healthcare professional has recommended any change in your treatment, this is to safeguard you and your health during this time when you are especially vulnerable; in particular, it is likely that these changes have been made to support your immune system, and reduce the risk of infection. If you continue to have any worries or concerns, or you have concerns about your existing treatment plan during this time, please talk to your doctor as soon as possible so that you can understand any changes, or if change is needed, and be actively involved in decisions about your treatment.
Even during this outbreak, and according to your personalised plan of care, it may be possible that you have to go to hospital to receive your treatment or to visit your doctor. In these times, it is inevitable that you will have concerns about the potential risk of infection during your visit. Talking to your doctor about whether your visit is absolutely necessary may be helpful; there may be a possibility to postpone your appointment, or hold the consultation in another way, for example by phone or virtually. If there is no possibility to delay your appointment, you should make sure that you follow all guidance relating to reducing the risk of infection during, and whilst travelling to and from your visit to the hospital. Remember, you are an important decision-maker in your own treatment plan, and during these uncertain times, it is easy to feel a lack of control – if you are feeling worried about how your care or health might be affected by the coronavirus, you should speak to your doctor and healthcare professionals to stay informed and be involved in decision-making and scheduling around your treatment.
Lastly, try to stay positive! We know from research that a positive mindset can help you to feel less anxious, feel healthier in mind and body, and more in control of yourself and your surroundings. Try not to think about worst-case scenarios, or things that could go wrong, as this could make you feel worse. Instead, follow all these steps to stay as healthy as possible during this difficult period.
Find here an infographic summarising all this tips. If you feel there is a need for these materials to be translated into your language, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch here video filmed by the psycho-oncologist, Fátima Castaño, to give us tips to cope with confinement during the COVID-19 outbreak.
For more information on COVID-19 click here.