Surviving COVID 19 from a psychological perspective: Advice for people with epilepsy and their families.

Our colleagues in the International Bureau for Epilepsy have recently published a paper offering advice on how best to survive the psychological impacts that the COVID19 pandemic has brought with it. 

We have featured the paper in both the 'Additional Resources' and 'Mental Health & Stress' sections of our new dedicated suite of resources on our website for COVID19 however we also wanted to summarise the advice in our News Section for ease of access. The paper deals with the current situation under a number of headings and offers practical tips & advice on how best to manage these during the current situation. These are outlined below:

Feeling out of Control

Some individuals may well feel overwhelmed by their thoughts and fears about contracting the virus or managing the lockdown. It is important to recognise that we cannot control what happens in the pandemic nor can we control the decisions made by others e.g. restricting movements, social distancing, closing down workplaces and cessation of employment. However, we can try and control some aspects of our everyday life.

Suggestions
-Share your thoughts and fears with others including a family member or friend 
-If worry plays on your mind and bothers you or interferes with your day, then ask yourself can you control what you are worrying about? If you can, then spend 10-15- minutes thinking of solutions and plan what you can do now. 
-If you are worrying about a problem that you can’t control, then try postponing the worry or distract yourself from the worrying thoughts. Or remind yourself that your worry is just a thought and that thoughts come and go. 
-Try to pay attention to the present and not think too far ahead at this time.  
-Find pleasure in the smaller things that we usually take for granted or don’t have time to do, like cutting the grass, cooking and sitting out feeling the warmth of the sun.
 

Education and Knowledge

Try and minimize watching, reading or listening to news about COVID-19 that causes you to feel anxious or distressed

Suggestions 
-Seek information only from trusted sources and mainly so that you can take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones. §
Seek information updates at specific times during the day, not more than once or twice daily. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried. 
-Get the facts; not rumours and misinformation. Gather information at regular intervals from local health authority platforms in order to help you distinguish facts from rumours. Facts can help to minimize fears.
 

Communication

Communication is central to our ability to stay emotionally well. Although contact is challenged by the current circumstances it is more important to maintain than ever.

Suggestions 
-Keep in regular contact with loved ones (e.g. via telephone, e-mail, social media or video conference). 
-Share your worries over your concerns with people you trust. 
-Remember that we are here to support you with any advice or support you may require with your epilepsy via our Community Resource Officers

Taking care of yourself

In times of uncertainty it is important to look after yourself physically, psychologically and emotionally.

Suggestions
-Be prepared and know in advance where and how to get practical help if needed, like calling a taxi, having food delivered and requesting medical care. 
-Make sure you have up to two weeks of all your regular medicines. 
-Learn simple daily physical exercises to perform at home, in quarantine or isolation so you can maintain mobility and reduce boredom. 
-If you have a garden, spend some time there or alternatively go for a walk. 
-Make sure you get enough sleep and try to maintain a regular sleeping pattern. 
-It is important to keep your mind active as well as your body. This could mean learning a new hobby, improving existing skills, making a playlist etc. 

Maintaining relationships during Covid -19

We don’t normally spend so much time at home with our partners and family. We all need to develop a new normal for all being at home together.
 
Suggestions 
-If you or your partner are working from home, talk about how this is working for you and them. You may need to get creative with the space if you are both working from home. Take turns to share the most comfortable and quiet spot and share childcare so that you can both get some work done. 
-Try to deal with bickering by talking about the shared frustration with this virus and realise that we are all in this together.  
-Big and difficult decisions or conversations may need to be put on hold while you handle the current situation, and if these issues have been the cause of arguments with your partner, then call a truce during this time to make living under one roof more bearable. 
-Treat each other with kindness and compassion especially as the outside world can feel quite threatening. 
-If you are getting frustrated or upset, count to 10, take some deep breaths, walk away and calm yourself down. 
-If you’re getting frustrated with others in the house, it might be an idea to share how you’re feeling by getting in touch with a trusted friend. 
-Remember that children will see and learn from how you deal with conflict, so keep this in mind when you are all under one roof together.
 

Routine and Structure

Getting into a good routine and controlling your worry, as well as looking after yourself generally, will help with your epilepsy. Regular exercising, cleaning, daily chores, singing, painting or other activities are all important.

Suggestions 
-Keep regular routines and schedules as much as possible or help create new ones for the new environment.
-Write a timetable for the forthcoming week. 
-Set yourself goals and build a weekly plan to meet those goals. 
-Keep the same routine with taking your medication and with your sleep. 
-Use the memory support techniques and reminders that work for you, with regard to taking your antiepileptic mediation and for general day to day things. That might be a dosette box for your medication or a Smartphone App to remind you when to take your medication. 
-For memory generally, keeping a diary, using lists, notes, a white board with reminders and generally having a routine can all help.  
 

In Summary...

  1. Set a routine. If you are spending more time at home it is important to continue with a regular routine. 
  2. Stay mentally and physically active. 
  3. Notice worry triggers and try to limit the time that you are exposed to them each day. 
  4. Rely on reputable news sources. 
  5. Stay connected to others.

Thank you to our colleagues in the IBE for compiling this paper which was authored by Professor Gus A Baker and Professor Steven Kemp. The paper in its entirety can be found here.

Remember that Epilepsy Ireland remain available to you throughout this time through our Community Resource Officers and we are also continually updating our suite of resources on COVID19 here. 

Stay safe, stay at home and hold firm.