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Coping With Coronavirus: How To Stay Calm and Protect your Mental Health by Professor Brendan Kelly

Writing.ie | Magazine | Interviews | Non-Fiction
Coping With Coronavirus

By Professor Brendan Kelly

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I am a psychiatrist, a medical doctor who treats people with mental illness and states of psychological distress. When I became aware of coronavirus earlier this year, it was clear that the pandemic would present the world with two problems. The first problem is the illness caused by the new coronavirus itself, Covid-19. The second problem is the anxiety and panic that the virus triggers in the minds of virtually everyone who hears about it.

Both problems are very real and both can be managed.

Our public health doctors, politicians, healthcare workers and citizens have devoted themselves to the first problem with great energy. We are washing our hands more often, staying at home and maintaining physical distance. We have even learned a new language: ‘mitigation phase’, ‘flattening the curve’ and the ‘new normal’ – although there is nothing even vaguely normal about it.

The second problem concerns the anxiety that coronavirus will continue to cause for some time to come. Unlike the situation with traditional anxiety disorders, where we teach people that there is nothing to fear, we really do have something to be anxious about now: coronavirus. As a result, our task today is to keep our anxiety in proportion, learn to live with a certain amount of uncertainty, and avoid the compulsive behaviours that make us more worried: repeatedly checking news websites and constantly repeating worst-case scenarios that flourish on social media.

With all of this in mind, I decided to write a book. Why a book?

The main reason is that, while we are all encouraged to stay at home, for many people this means spending hours and hours consuming relentless, breathless media coverage. This is a problem. It is important to be informed, but compulsive obsession with the news flow is unhealthy.

A book provides an opportunity to sit back and reflect. Reading a book involves setting other media aside for a period of time and focusing on the text of the book. This text does not update every two minutes. It is fixed. There is an important message implicit in this: in a world that can feel impossible to grasp, certain things are stable.

A book is critically different to a website, a news article or social media in this respect. At a time when we all need to calm down, stand back and reflect, the book format offers unique possibilities for stability, engagement and thought.

When I approached Merrion Press with my idea, they jumped at it. I never got a quicker ‘Yes’ in my entire life. Nobody hesitated. Everyone waived their fees. People stayed in late. Proofs were corrected in the early morning. The book got done in just ten days.

The result – Coping with Coronavirus – is intended to provide calm, reflective advice about how to manage our mental health during this pandemic. Some suggestions might be familiar. Others will be new. The key message of the book is that we need to stop, think and then act.

For this task, we need a careful mix of awareness, mindful engagement and thoughtful action. Books help with this. The coronavirus pandemic demands nothing less.

(c) Professor Brendan Kelly

About Coping With Coronavirus: How To Stay Calm and Protect your Mental Health

How worried should I be? What information can I trust? What should I tell the children? Can I survive the panic, let alone the virus.

These are certainly challenging, unprecedented times. Allow pre-eminent psychiatrist Dr Brendan Kelly to help you understand and cope with the unique stresses of today, as we all try to deal with the threat of COVID-19 within our homes, communities and throughout the world.

The anxiety associated with the coronavirus crisis is different to the anxiety seen in traditional disorders, because demonstrably there is something to fear, and that’s what makes this worry so ubiquitous, so persistent and so challenging to manage. The good news is that, just as we are capable of finding sophisticated ways to make ourselves more anxious, we are equally good at finding sophisticated ways to manage our mental health, once we put our minds to it. Anxiety-management techniques help hugely once they are modified to suit the new situation that we face, and in Coronavirus: A Psychological Toolkit, Dr Brendan Kelly will give you all the practical tools you and your family need to navigate these dark, uncertain days.

Royalties from this book will be donated to medical charities assisting with the global response to coronavirus.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Brendan Kelly is Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin and author of “Coping with Coronavirus. How to Stay Calm and Protect your Mental Health: A Psychological Toolkit” (Merrion Press)

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