How to ensure good mental health during COVID: tips from Prague professionals

Prague-based experts offer calming tips for coping with triggers in difficult times

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas
Published on 02.09.2020 14:58 (updated on 19.09.2020)

This article was originally published in March 2020.

For anyone who grapples with depression, social anxiety, or health anxiety on a regular basis the current global pandemic can trigger or exacerbate pre-existing conditions.
And while handwashing may keep the virus at bay it certainly doesn’t do much for anxiety levels. So what can you do to cope whether you are someone who has been diagnosed with any kind of mental health issues or someone who’s simply unaccustomed to dealing with the added stress brought on by the current atmosphere of dread, fear, and isolation?

Continue getting help

Experts say that its important to continue your existing care regimen. Many mental health professionals, like everyone and everything else right now, are moving their practices online. Their colleagues in Prague and the Czech Republic are no exception.

A number of professionals from our own directory listings have confirmed that they are offering contactless Skype and WhatsApp sessions in English and other languages; see individual listings for therapists, counselors, and psychologists here.

Practice acceptance

Dr. Désirée Gonzalo is one of many Prague-based mental-health professionals who will be offering her multilingual services online via Skype. A clinical psychologist specializing in anxiety disorders, she shared some coping strategies for anyone suffering from anxiety brought on by the spread of coronavirus.

She says that aside from following the government’s instructions, practicing acceptance is an important step to take in order to ensure good mental health. “Accept the current reality and do what you need to do in terms of self-care, care of loved ones, and work. Stay focused,” she says.

Limit how much time you spend checking headlines

And while it may be tempting to spend the day reading news updates, Dr. Gonzalo says our state of mind can suffer as a result. “Reading or watching the news too frequently can lead to unhealthy catastrophising, she says, which in turn can lead to imagining negative future scenarios. She suggests checking the news once or twice a day, and sticking to trusted sources.

Of course, entirely eschewing technology isn’t practical advice and disconnecting could leave you feeling adrift. Dr. Gonzalo recommends staying connected with friends and family.

Recognize this as a special time

Gail Whitmore is a Prague-based counsellor trained in crisis prevention and intervention. She offers her services 24/7, and takes calls and conducts online sessions. She also recommends the English-friendly crisis chat www.imalive.org for emergency situations.

Whitmore adds that trying to look at the positive aspects of the situation could actually help those who face mounting fears to remain focused. 

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She recommends reconnecting with your family in ways that weren’t practical before due to time constraints (do game nights, puzzles, etc.) or tackling things you always wished you could do if you only had the time — reread your favorite book, try or new hobby, or study Czech.

“Some of these things may sound a bit cheesy,” says Whitmore, “But it could be truly helpful to try and look outside of the box and use this very special chunk of time where other options are strictly limited.”

What are you doing to keep your mental health in check during the COVID crisis?