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Staying calm: Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the Expat in Milan

Staying calm: Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the Expat in Milan

By Karen Rigatti, Certified Professional Counselor

As if there weren’t already enough hurdles to navigate while living abroad, expats are now having to deal with the added stress, confusion and uncertainty of the coronavirus here in Italy. Being far from home and perhaps not speaking the language – and therefore not fully understanding the constantly changing updates by the Italian government – can contribute to feelings of anxiety and worry in even the most cool-headed expats. So, what to do?

We’ve all been reading and hearing a great deal about this new virus, and it can feel like information overload. Most of all, we need to know some important facts, such as what the symptoms of the coronavirus actually are – not everyone who has a cold or the flu has the coronavirus!

With so much focus on the rising statistics of those who have contracted the coronavirus, some important points to consider are getting overlooked. One of the most challenging aspects for cities and towns dealing with the coronavirus is in fact the rapid rate at which it is spreading. The fact that the virus is spreading quickly has put an enormous strain on doctors and hospitals, who must also manage all of the other serious health issues and emergencies that haven’t slowed down, e.g., car accidents, heart attacks, strokes, scheduled and unscheduled surgeries, illnesses unrelated to the coronavirus, etc. However, we must remember that a rapidly spreading virus does not mean that it is actually more dangerous, just that it is making containment and treatment more challenging in the immediate term. 

This is a new virus and with newness comes questions, especially from children. As always, parents set the tone, and our kids need reassurance and calm, right now more than ever. It’s ok not to have all the answers, but we can remind them, and ourselves, that the Italian government has reacted quickly and proactively to help contain and manage the virus as swiftly and effectively as possible. We can do our part by remembering that as with any flu, we want to practice good hygiene, stay home when we’re sick, avoid contact with others who are ill, and keep in mind that for the vast majority of those who do contract the coronavirus, they will recover without incident. Also, you can and should spend time with people who are healthy! Staying connected to others is especially important in times of stress and helps to reduce anxiety and worry, not to mention feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Key points:

  • Not every sniffle or fever is the coronavirus. This is still cold and flu season, so getting sick can come with the territory at this time of year. 
  • Familiarize yourself with the actual symptoms of the coronavirus (fever, cough and difficulty breathing) and if you have them, seek medical attention as previously noted.
  • Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell.
  • Most people (about 80%) recover from the virus without needing special treatment.
  • Older people and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes are more likely to develop serious illness.

With the above in mind, it’s important to keep life as normal as possible right now, in spite of the various closings and restrictions. While we may have to manage kids who are home from school, work schedules that are disrupted and travel plans that are cancelled, there is still a lot we can do to practice self-care, and tend to ourselves both emotionally and physically.

Wellness tips – mind and body:

  • Get out of the house and get moving. Gyms may be closed but you can take advantage of the great outdoors – take a walk or hike, go for a run or take a bike ride. 
  • Limit your exposure to coronavirus news and pick news sources that you trust and are well-vetted. Stay informed, but there’s no need to hawkishly watch every new tally of those infected.
  • Stick to your daily routine as much as possible (eating meals and going to bed at the usual times), while making the necessary adjustments to managing children home from school, and disrupted work schedules.
  • Maintain contact with friends and family, but minimize talk about the coronavirus, as it will only increase anxiety in those already feeling anxious.
  • Take advantage of the extra time at home – reading, movies, games, cooking, organizing – whatever activities you normally don’t have enough time for.
  • Take a mindfulness or meditation break of at least 10 minutes a day.

Above all, try to stay calm and stay connected. 

Symptoms of Cornavirus:

  • Dry sore throat
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Respiratory symptoms – shortness of breath and breathing difficulties

What to do if you think you might have the virus:

  • If you have had the above symptoms for over three days and suspect you may have contracted the virus, in Lombardia you should call 800 89 45 45, the Numero Verde for the coronavirus. Operators should also be able to respond in English and Chinese and will evaluate each suspected case by phone, and then provide information on how to proceed. 
  • The Italian Minister of Health has also activated the number 1500 for general information regarding the coronavirus, with information also in English and Chinese.
  • Do not go to the ER (pronto soccorso). 
  • If you have a family (or private) doctor, call and alert them of your symptoms and they will instruct you on how to proceed.

Precautions to take:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw away the tissue
  • Stay home if you are sick 
  • Use a face mask only if you are sick (and must go out) or are assisting those who are sick

By Karen Rigatti, Certified Professional Counselor

www.karenrigatti.com

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Featured image: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milano / Pixabay

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