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Mental toughness for swine flu

14th September 2009

H1N1 swine flu-related stress may weigh upon people’s minds, but there are several steps we can take to reduce anxiety and improve their physical resistance to the disease, according to a specialist in the US.

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Josh Klapow, a certified disaster mental health specialist, said that coping with the outbreak of a disease should involve clear thinking and balanced emotions.

He said that if people cannot function at a high level psychologically and cognitively during a flu outbreak, they will not make good decisions and will put themselves at further risk.

His tips include simple strategies hygienic measures, like covering coughs and sneezes, or washing with antibacterial soap.

His strategies not only empower those who use them with confidence, but keep the spread of the disease at bay.

Klapow said that swine flu is an enemy people cannot see, creating palpable fear in people’s minds, and that people should learn instead to stay calm, eat healthy, and get enough sleep.

He said that people should remind themselves that swine flu is a very mild illness, and though some tragic cases occur, most people are not developing serious disease to the point where they have to go to the hospital.

Sick-leave and time-off policies should be clear among people in the workplace.

Klapow said that employees should make sure employers and workers are not somehow 'reading between the lines' of sick-leave announcements.

People can also positively influence their health by taking simple actions that will help them to deal with disease related anxiety.

Klapow said that small personal actions do work in terms of protecting the public from getting sick, and help them transform worry into productive worry.

Making judgments based on limited or incorrect information also contributes to the spread of disease, because it is easy for people to panic in the wake of an outbreak.

Klapow said that if people get sick, they should remind themselves that they might only be sick for five to six days.


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