Mental Health in the Covid-19 pandemic.
In 2020 when we first observed the spread of Covid-19 the whole world went on high alert. People stocked necessary things, isolated themselves, learned to live a minimal life. It was difficult to manage but it was coped with well with the right precautionary measures. When the community started to open, the world started to function in a normal way everyone saw a ray of hope that we would be defeating the virus and it became easy for everyone to accept the new normal reality. Now with the new severe wave of Covid-19, it has again become challenging for people to cope and it has resulted in exhaustion and fatigue.
Our body’s response to any perceived or real threat can result in fear, worry, and stress. It is common for people to experience fear in the context of the pandemic. Adding to the fear of coming in contact with the virus are the drastic changes in the livelihood and lifestyle of every individual. From normal movement to restricted movement in efforts to control the spread of the virus. All over the world people are faced with the new reality of momentary unemployment, working from home, lack of physical contact with friends and family, homeschooling for children, worry about isolation, overburden of healthcare workers, financial distress, uncertainty about the future, rapid changes in schedules and plans. All these fluctuations are further leading to anxiousness, persistent changes in mood, frustration, irritability, exhaustion, fatigue, powerlessness, impatience, confusion, substance use, changes in sleep, changes in appetite, agitation, bereavement, etc.
Some of the ways to ensure your mental well being
- Reflect and Accept: It becomes very important to continuously check on your mental health and reflect on how you are feeling every day. If you find yourself anxious, scared, worried or exhausted give yourself time to understand it’s normal to feel these emotions with the amount of information flowing around. Human across the world are sharing this similar experience. Understand the ways you can help yourself feel better and distract yourself to have a positive mindset at this point. Write down the steps you can take to divert your mind and to make yourself feel calm. Taking time to pause and think can help you come up with something no matter how small it would be. Maintain a gratitude journal, this can be a powerful tool to deal with stress in difficult times. It can also help you foster resilience.
- Challenge your negative thoughts: The chain of negative thoughts can become so strong that you start to believe it’s true. Understanding your pattern of rumination and writing them down can be another step to help rid of the negative thoughts. Ask yourself these questions “How true is this thought”, “How did I cope with a similar situation last year”, “How helpful it is to keep thinking in the same way”, “How this would help me reach a solution” and “How this would help me”. After questioning try to write down the positive alternatives of these thoughts and try to find the more realistic options to challenge these thoughts.
- Take a break from the news: Constant news about Covid-19 can make you feel hopeless and may exacerbate mental health concerns. There is a lot of inaccurate information circulating about the virus and the healthcare facilities. Be critical and cautious about the information you read and share, especially on social media and discussion boards. It’s essential to balance watching important news and keeping yourself informed about reliable news by checking the trusted sources. Seek trusted news to protect yourself and your loved ones, stay updated with the latest developments and guidelines. Limit your frequency of checking the news to twice a day (in the morning and before dinner) avoid checking the news before going to bed. Constrain from sharing alarming headlines and news with friends and family. Limit conversations dominating Covid-19 news and updates. Overexposure to the news and information can further create panic, fear and worry.
- Follow a Routine: Even if you don’t want to thrive on a strict schedule, having a routine can help you deal with stress, unpredictability and uncertainty. It can help you during self-isolation. Without a routine, these new challenges of life such as work from home, doing household chores, homeschooling, etc. can become frightening and add up to stress and anxiety. Having a structural guide can help you be more efficient and give you a sense of control which can help you manage the feeling of powerlessness. Make a list of your daily tasks and lay out a plan. Make a to-do list that can work as a constant reminder of your routine and help you have a sense of accomplishment once completed.
- Do Physical and Mindfulness Exercises: Proactively taking out time to exercise and relax can help improve your mood and reduces stress and anxiety. With not having excess fitness facilities because of the restricted movement, it’s essential to indulge in 30-minutes exercise every day to boost your mood and to stay active. If it’s difficult to start with 30 minutes, then start small with 10 minutes a day and then add a few minutes daily. Being mindful and taking time to focus on the present can help you centre your thoughts and can help you deal with the tension around what the future holds. Doing deep breathing exercises can help you feel calm and relax when feeling anxious.
- Take Deliberate Breaks: Taking deliberate breaks in between your day can help you refocus, re-energise and unwind. It can also help you manage digital fatigue. Try exploring new things in these breaks to enhance your mood. (For example, dancing, gardening, cooking, playing with your pet, watering your plants, learning new instruments, playing board games with family, etc.). Taking a break from social media and technology to digitally detox can help you maintain a healthy screen time balance during the pandemic.
- Stay Connected: Distancing from your friends, family and relatives physically can be discomforting but living in this virtual world, connecting with your loved ones through video communication, phone calls, texting in just a few minutes can bring comfort and joy despite the physical distance. Talk with people you trust regarding your concerns, worry and fear. This will make you aware of how they are also feeling the same way. It can help you look forward to a different perspective to deal with the situation. Therefore, keeping a check on your loved ones, friends and families in difficult times can be helpful.
Applying all these strategies in your daily functioning can help you manage stress and maintain your mental wellbeing.