Long after most people have returned to work, even with social distancing, wearing masks, taking extreme care to wash hands rigorously and often, avoiding crowds, and limiting time in small confined spaces, there’s still the home environment to contend with. According to some experts, it’s more likely people can contract COVID-19 at home than outdoors and in some places long suspect, such as grocery stores. Without minimizing the importance of home cleanliness, excessive home cleaning for COVID-19 can trigger anxiety. These steps can help.
Make cleaning a ritual, yet don’t spend hours doing it.
Rituals and daily regimens are often helpful for those prone to anxiety or who find comfort using them to cope with stress. As long as the ritual doesn’t veer into the obsessive category, cleaning on a daily basis, or when it’s necessary, such as wiping down surfaces in the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and other frequently used areas of the home, the action can tamp down anxious thoughts. Instead, the act of cleaning can serve as reassurance that you’re doing the right thing to help your family stay safe and healthy, that it’s effective, and it’s something you can control. This is perhaps especially important during a time when there’s still so much uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. We don’t know, for example, when there’ll be a safe and effective vaccine or when therapeutics and medicines to treat the condition will be widely available. So, being able to exert personal control over when, where, and how you clean the home is a positive reinforcement for your mental health.
Wash clothing worn in high-traffic establishments outside the home upon return.
Since the COVID-19 virus is highly contagious, and people exposed to someone who’s positive for it, even if they’re asymptomatic, and cough or sneeze, it’s possible to return home with the germ still active on clothing. The remedy for this is to remove the clothing and wash it immediately at home. Use the hottest water setting appropriate for the garments, and add color-safe bleach if it’s not damaging to the material to do so. This will effectively kill the germs and prevent them from lingering on the clothing and infecting others in the household through secondary transmission of the virus.
Isolate any family members testing positive for COVID-19, even if they’re asymptomatic.
The worrying aspect of having a family member who may be positive for COVID-19, yet doesn’t show symptoms, is undeniable. If testing is available and shows positivity for the virus, it’s important for that individual to self-isolate in an area of the house away from the rest of the family. A study from Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases found that the odds that a primary case transmitted COVID-19 in a closed environment was 18.7 times greater than an open-air environment.”
Others in the family should also self-quarantine in the home for a period of 14 days as a precaution. If the positive (or symptomatic) family member shows improvement and has no fever, cough, or other serious symptoms for two weeks, the self-isolation and self-quarantine can likely be lifted. Check with your medical provider and follow the professional’s recommendations. As for the rest of the family during the quarantine period, continue thorough hand washing and other COVID-19 precautions even while remaining in place. In fact, it’s more important than ever to do so. This will help ratchet down the tendency for COVID-19 to trigger an anxiety attack or keep you up at night with a stream of anxious thoughts.
A survey conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group found that 55 percent of Americans said the coronavirus pandemic has already affected their mental health, either a great deal or somewhat, whereas only 19 percent responded that it hasn’t affected their mental health at all. Interestingly, among women and those under age 50 say their mental health has already been affected, 62 and 60 percent, respectively.
Use common household ingredients to clean and sanitize the home.
Instead of being triggered with anxiety over the lack of cleaning and sanitizing products at home and if it’s not possible to get to the store to buy the usual cleaning and sanitizing products, or if the store is out of them entirely and you don’t want to go to multiple stores looking for them, use a handy substitute. Soap and water works well for this purpose. In fact, numerous experts on how to clean and sanitize surfaces (and hands, for that matter) recommend using soap and water and scrubbing vigorously.
Ammonia and bleach or other disinfectants you may have in the home are good to use on countertops and floors, although they should never be combined. It’s also best to use them after first wiping down with hot soap and water. Then, let the disinfectant remain on the surface for 20 seconds before wiping off.
Minimize news consumption about COVID-19 to lessen likelihood of triggering anxiety.
While it can be hard to escape the constant news barrage about all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health experts strongly recommend limiting news consumption about the virus to lessen the likelihood the reports will trigger anxiety. This may be difficult when everyone is staying in place at home and watching TV and consuming social media or perusing the Internet for entertainment and distraction. Indeed, a survey conducted in Nepal during quarantine lockdown for COVID-19 found that prevalence rates of depression, anxiety and depression-anxiety were 34.0 percent, 31.0 percent, and 23.2 percent, respectively. Among those who lived alone, females, health professionals, and people spending more time accessing COVID-19 information were significantly more likely to have comorbid depression, anxiety, and depression-anxiety than the general population.
So, while you’re busy cleaning and sanitizing the home as a precaution against COVID-19 transmission, keep entertainment light and steer clear of non-stop news reports and coverage of the pandemic. Your anxiety levels will benefit from such a prudent decision.