Mental health in the time of Covid-19
I received a text message from a friend last night saying, "I feel so down that if I could sleep for 24 hours, I would! These are not normal days! Sleeping is now the only escape from reality!"
The text message rocked me to the core. I rang my friend right away, and we reminisced on some happy memories, which left both of us in a good mood. Instead of panicking, we went back to our scheduled work. Starting a day in such lousy mood is not very uncommon in the aftermath of the outbreak of novel coronavirus.
Over the past few months, the number of patients with Covid-19 and the number of associated deaths have been increasing. As a result, the whole world has come to a standstill and there are enough reasons to feel sad and depressed. "Lockdown" and "quarantine" are now words familiar to everyone and have made each of us feel and experience countless different emotions and anxieties, like loneliness in isolation, falling behind at work, stressed about friends and family. Many of us, meanwhile, are feeling nothing but hopelessness. A mental health survey in Wuhan after the Covid-19 outbreak has already shown that isolation due to quarantine can affect our mental health.
How can isolation affect your mental health?
Isolation can develop the following emotions: Depression, heightened stress, decreased memory, anxiety, paranoia and risk of drug abuse.
There are a few other things that you may be experiencing -- feeling burned out, angry or frustrated at the people who are not taking this seriously, uncertainty about the future, mourning over cancelled events, struggling with working from home, and feeling inadequate about your productivity. A lot of parents are struggling to keep their children locked down at home all day. The list will go on.
According to therapists, these feelings are reasonable, and you are not alone. It is normal to feel sad, stressed, confused and scared during a crisis. Whatever you are feeling right now, it is valid, and all these emotions are essential. Therefore, it is crucial to take care of our mental health as well as physical health.
To that end, there are some ways to boost your mental health in this trying period.
It is important to stick to existing routines or make new ones, but it is as important to remember to follow them consistently.
Staying connected with the people you value and trust helps. Talking to one of them can help reduce stress or anxiety.
Taking care of yourself physically can improve your mental health. Eat a nutritious meal, drink plenty of water, exercise, and get enough sleep.
It is also crucial to set boundaries while checking news. Do not check out every piece of new information on the pandemic. Do not refresh all websites every hour of the day. It is time to put the filter on the news because researchers at the University of California, Irvine, suggested that repeated media exposure to the crisis can cause psychological distress.
Value yourself, treat yourself with kindness and respect, and avoid self-critics.
Make time for your hobbies and favourite projects or broaden your horizons. Do a daily crossword puzzle, plant a garden, learn to play an instrument or become fluent in another language.
Start your day with gratitude as it is the healthiest of all emotions. Write down or share with your friends a few things that you are grateful for.
Do meditation or practice activities that promote mindfulness.
While is it important to stay in touch with friends and family on social media, we should try not to sensationalise things. Are there particular accounts or people that are increasing your worry or anxiety? If so, consider muting and unfollowing those accounts that cause to feel anxious.
Show love and kindness to people with no stable income. A bit of thoughtfulness and generosity from you can go a long way for others.
Most importantly, if you do not come out of this quarantine with a new skill or more knowledge, you are doing just fine. We are all going through this collective trauma together; not everyone has the privilege of turning a pandemic into a productive experience. Stay healthy.
The author is an occupational therapist at CRP, Savar and MPhil Candidate, Monash University, Australia