Friday, October 17, 2014

Feeling Overwhelmed with Health Related News?

Blog contributed by Melissa M. Brown, Psy.D, PinnacleHealth Psychological Associates

As with any serious event that carries uncertainty it can create stress and lead to worry.  Recently, we have been hearing a lot about the Ebola virus and may have developed a heightened awareness because it has affected several U.S. citizens.  While the United States is not currently experiencing an outbreak, it is important to keep yourself informed; however, at a healthy level.  One of the negative consequences of doing so can lead to feeling overwhelmed by information, excessive worry, or displaying symptoms of stress.  Therefore, it is important to be aware of when too much information is not helping but hurting you.  Some symptoms which may indicate that you are reaching a critical point include: not sleeping, sleeping too much, over or under eating, disengaging from previously enjoyed activities, constant worry or fear that you will contract the illness, excessive thoughts about the virus, unnecessary precautions with you or other family members, dizziness, difficulty focusing or concentrating, or anything else that is a deviation from your normal life functions.

There are numerous things to do to protect your mental health while taking the appropriate measures to inform yourself.  First, limit the amount of media information you are viewing about the virus.  If necessary turn off the television or change the channel. Second, educate yourself about the virus through reputable sources of information such as the: CDC, The WHO and your local hospital. These resources use scientific information which has been demonstrated to be the most accurate at the time and will alleviate any concern about things you have heard that may or may not be true.  Third, take the necessary steps to ensure good mental and physical health.  There are a few things you can do that will reduce your stress and anxiety: exercise regularly, eat a well balanced healthy diet, disengage from the media information, and reach out to family members and trusted support systems.  If you find that your symptoms are becoming increasingly bothersome or interfering with your life on any level, it may be time to seek out professional intervention.  A psychologist or other mental health professional can work with you to alleviate your fears and reduce your symptoms of stress.

Finally, it is important to remember that various professionals are available to provide support and, if necessary, intervention.  They have the training and expertise on what to do if you are experiencing any forms of distress.  Allow these individuals and professional organizations to provide you with accurate information.

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