/Covid-19: five tips to mentally cope with a health crisis that we are struggling to see the end
Covid 19: Five Tips To Mentally Cope With A Health Crisis

Covid-19: five tips to mentally cope with a health crisis that we are struggling to see the end

The health crisis lasts and the mental health of the French suffers. After more than a year of epidemic, psychologists explain how to better apprehend this long period of uncertainty and wear and tear.

A man looks outside behind a window of his home, in Cassagne (Haute-Garonne), February 8, 2021. (LILIAN CAZABET / HANS LUCAS / AFP)

“We will have to continue to hold out in the weeks to come.” While Emmanuel Macron hinted at a light at the end of the tunnel of health restrictions by announcing, Friday, April 30, his deconfinement schedule, the Head of State also urged the French to again “resist”. “Until this summer (…) it will be necessary to continue to accept (…) some restrictions to slow down” the Covid-19 epidemic, said the President of the Republic in a video message.

But how to stay the course after these months marked in particular by several confinements and the establishment of the curfew? Because if the health crisis sets in over time, so do its psychological consequences. The mental health of the French “Remains degraded, with a high prevalence of anxiety and depression, sleep problems and suicidal thoughts”, concludes the latest assessment of the CoviPrev survey from Public Health France, the results of which were posted online in early April. In mid-March, 21% of the people questioned declared to suffer from an anxious state, against about 13.5% in period outside the epidemic. To try to better understand this period still full of doubts, franceinfo has gathered advice from psychologists.

1Faced with uncertainty, try to anchor yourself more in the present …

Our mental health is first particularly affected by uncertainty, notes Abdel Halim Boudoukha, clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Nantes. When can we truly return to normal life? Should we fear a new wave? What will be the economic repercussions of this crisis? So many questions that give everyone “The feeling of having less control over life”, analyzes the specialist. “Humans don’t like uncertainty”, tranche Charlotte Jacquemot, researcher in interventional neuropsychology at Inserm.

But then, how to temper the psychological consequences linked to this uncertainty? Since we have no control over the events, “If we start to worry about the future, anxiety will only to grow “, explains Stéphany Orain-Pelissolo, psychologist-psychotherapist. The specialist, at the initiative of the Covid-Ecoute support platform, believes that we must therefore learn to live in the present moment. An exercise far from being instinctive, she concedes: “Since we were very young, we have been taught to predict and program.”

To achieve this, Abdel Halim Boudoukha advises to develop “Savoring”, this ability to “Fully experience the pleasant moments of everyday life”. “It’s not about the postcard moment, like watching a sunset in the Bahamas, warns the psychologist. Just enjoy a walk or take a few minutes to breathe out the window. ” To practice spotting these positive moments, Charlotte Jacquemot recommends listing them at the end of the day, like in a gratitude notebook. “You have to try to retain a bit of the positive from the present moment. Because we don’t have the keys to the future, but we have those of the present ”, supports the researcher in neuropsychology.

2… and develop activities to regain a sense of control

The specialists call, among other things, to develop so-called “coping” or adjustment strategies, that is to say adaptation to stressful situations. Techniques that can help restore a feeling of control.

Cooking, music, drawing… Charlotte Jacquemot suggests, for example, to get started “gradually” in an activity by setting “petits challenges” : Çit could be an artistic activity that we never took the time to start and on which we decide to spend an hour today. ” Completing this task will provide gratification, a sense of mastery over events, and reduce anxiety. There is no point, however, in trying to learn to speak Japanese in three weeks, she warns: if the goal is too difficult to achieve, the operation will be counterproductive and create nervousness.

3Treat yourself to “decompression airlocks”

Beyond the uncertainty it induces, this “Protracted crisis” is also a source of wear and “Pandemic fatigue”, warns the World Health Organization (link in English). This term, which appeared at the end of 2020, designates “Psychological distress, chronic and prolonged stress in the face of the health crisis and the limitation of movements and freedoms”, summarizes Abdel Halim Boudoukha.

This phenomenon of weariness results in a decreased motivation to protect oneself despite constant risk ”, adds Jocelyn Raude. Associated with the study of Public Health France, this teacher-researcher in social psychology observes over the waves of CoviPrev survey a “Relaxation on the rules of hygiene” and more particularly on “Social behavior”.

A trend that is also noticeable Stéphany Orain-Pelissolo in his office, where the “fear” virus, observed at the start of the epidemic, has given way in recent months to the “anger” and the “frustration”. A lasting situation that is all the more difficult to manage as “Resource activities” (partying with friends, planning a trip …), which usually allow us to keep going, have for the most part disappeared, explains the psychologist.

Stéphany Orain-Pelissolo calls however to spare as much as possible of the little ones “Decompression chamber”. A simple weekend in a small committee, in compliance with health rules, allows you to recreate social ties and share your emotions. “And even if it’s to say that we are all fed up, it shows us that we are not alone in this mishap”, smiles the therapist. Not to mention that the end of travel restrictions and the imminent reopening of terraces and cultural places will make it possible to expand the “Take-back strategies”, souligne Abdel Halim Boudoukha.

In general, we must try “To keep habits and little routines”, complete Charlotte Jacquemot, for “Move forward in a reassuring environment and reduce anxiety”. Even when working from home, there is no question of answering professional emails at 11 p.m., explains the neuropsychology researcher. “It’s a difficult rule to stick to over time, but it’s important not to create a mix of genres” between work and private life.

4Learn to better understand

Information is a key factor in taming stress, also believes Charlotte Jacquemot, member of the scientific collective Adios Corona, at the origin of an information platform for the general public on the advancement of knowledge about the virus.

WHO also advises governments to demonstrate clarity and transparency in decision-making and communication, by setting measurable objectives to introduce a predictable dimension despite uncertainty.

Beware, however, not to either “Overdosing the level of information”, continues Charlotte Jacquemot. For the researcher, it is therefore necessary to avoid keeping her eyes riveted on continuous news channels. It’s important to be informed, but when it’s a loop it’s heavy ”, adds Stéphany Orain-Pelissolo. The psychologist encourages them to learn about the evolution of the health situation only once a week, for example by consulting a summary article after a government press conference to be aware of the new measures. The rest of the time, she recommends watching entertaining content like movies or concerts.

5Do not hesitate to consult a psychologist

At last, “To keep mentally”, the most important remains of “Do not feel guilty about feeling bad”, continues Charlotte Jacquemot, who calls for consultations if necessary. The earlier the treatment of a discomfort, the more effective it will be ”, advances the researcher in neuropsychology. A few sessions with a psychologist may be enough, adds Stéphany Orain-Pelissolo. The appearance of sleep disorders, changes in appetite or even a loss of desire and motivation are the first signs that may prompt you to make an appointment with a professional.

At first, it is possible to contact your doctor, who can if necessary refer the patient to a specialist, adds Abdel Halim Boudoukha. For her part, Charlotte Jacquemot calls for “Demonize mental health disorders”. “When you have the flu, you go to a doctor, when you feel anxious, you can go to a psychologist or a psychiatrist”, summarizes the researcher.