TORONTO -- Mental health experts at the World Health Organization have published a guide to help people reduce stress and anxiety around the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aiysha Malik, from the WHO’s mental health and substance use department, shares some of the ways families in self-isolation and workers can reduce the burden on their mental health.

“What we’re seeing right now with COVID-19 is an increase in stress, fear, worry and anxiety,” Malik told CTV’s Your Morning Wednesday.

“And these can be fears around obtaining the virus or spreading it or about getting very sick, hospitalized or even death.”

She said these fears were common and normal as we face “danger, threat and uncertainty” around COVID-19.

With more and more people working from home and others in self-isolation, this lifestyle change can also bring about discomfort, Malik added.

“There are a few simple activities we can do, for example maintaining a sense of routine or developing a new routine is very important,” she said.

“This is particularly useful for households where there are children.”

While health authorities recommend social distancing, staying six feet or just under two metres away from people to stop the spread of the coronavirus, this does not mean reducing your social support, according to Malik.

“Take advantage of the many forms of communication that we have to maintain your social contacts,” she said.

“And think about your basic needs as well. We can’t understate the importance of looking after our physical health, keeping up our activity, our diet and good sleep.”

With so much information about COVID-19 emerging daily, Malik said people with existing mental health or substance use issues may be facing the potential of a relapse.

“One thing we are advocating is, if you are finding news distressing or is increasing your worry or anxiety at this time, we can minimize how much contact we are having with the information that we find distressing,” she said.

“This could be for example, just minimizing the news to one or two times a day and just staying in touch with the facts as you need to from the trusted sources and ultimately and importantly, ensuring you are in touch with your (healthcare) provider if you’re experiencing a worsening of your symptoms.”

The WHO posted its “mental health and psychosocial considerations during COVID-19” guide on March 12.

“These mental health considerations were developed by the WHO’s department of mental health and substance use as messages targeting different groups to support for mental and psychosocial well-being during COVID-19 outbreak,” reads the introduction to the six-page document.

It provides tips for the general population on reducing stigma around COVID-19 and avoiding misinformation. Another section deals with the challenges faced by frontline healthcare workers.

Further advice is given to those caring for the young, elderly and those in self-isolation.

“Ultimately everybody knows the things that might work for them when they’re facing stress, so use what’s worked for you before,” Malik said.