With a global pandemic befalling on us, we all have experienced a lot of changes around us. Not only has there been fear and worry about contracting the Coronavirus but also has created a lot of uncertainty in all aspects. A huge toll on mental health caused by factors such as isolation, economic uncertainty, and daily onslaughts of bad news, has been keenly observed in the general population. Public health emergencies called by the government with lockdowns caused a sense of confinement and a feeling of being “stuck” in our homes. This has caused people to develop prolonged symptoms of depression and acute anxiety which may also require professional attention. Studies have confirmed the fact that the stress of social isolation, the worry about jobs, money, and health, and the profound feelings of loss that many of us are experiencing at the moment can trigger depression for the first time or exacerbate symptoms if you’ve already been diagnosed.
Many individuals and local businesses have also suffered from a major economic crisis. Many have lost their jobs as a result of this pandemic causing distress and feelings of helplessness. For individuals in unhealthy and abusive relationships, this can cause more disruption and trauma as a result of lockdown and quarantines. Many young adults also find themselves fraying away from their social circles creating loneliness on account of losing friendships.
According to research by KFF tracking poll, epidemics have been shown to induce general stress across a population and may lead to new mental health and substance use issues. More than one in three adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic (weekly average for May: 34.5%; the weekly average for June: 36.5%; the weekly average for July: 40.1%). In comparison, from January to June 2019, more than one in ten (11%) adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder. Additionally, a recent study found that 13.3% of adults reported new or increased substance use as a way to manage stress due to the coronavirus; and 10.7% of adults reported thoughts of suicide in the past 30 days.
While the need to maintain social distance creates some obstacles, there are specific steps you can take to “make the best of the worst”.
Amidst this global pandemic, it may be very difficult to find hope around you, but being hopeful is one thing that can help us get going through days. For individuals feeling the financial impact of the coronavirus, a silver lining may be especially hard to find during this time. Try to adjust your mindset: If you’ve lost work, rather than seeing this as a permanent situation, think of it as the time in between returning to work. Once the pandemic emergency is over, there will be pent-up demand — everyone will be eager to go out to restaurants and travel, so many of those jobs will be there again. (Dr. Leahy, 2020)
Maintain a schedule
A lot of individuals have lost their usual routines and have sought to unstructured patterns of their daily activities and sleep, which may increase rumination and passivity -- high-risk factors for depression. It is, therefore, best to maintain a healthy schedule, which requires one to eat and sleep in regular timings. One can also make a to-do list of activities that you can check off later in the day. This will also help in gaining a sense of productivity.
As suggested by Dr. Robert Leahy, it’s especially important to keep structure if you’ve lost your job. It’s natural for people to be upset when they’re unemployed. In addition to the financial issues, they lose the structure in their lives. One way of coping is to structure your time.
Being Productive with your time
Find activities or chores you can do to use this time as an opportunity. Many of us while setting our career paths, left a lot of our hobbies and talents behind. Now, it is a perfect time to pick it up! Also making sure that while you pursue these activities, it is best not to set high standards for yourself. While it may be difficult, try to find moments of happiness in
this freedom. You can still go outside to exercise or go online to find an exercise or yoga video. Read the books and watch the movies you’ve always been meaning to. Get around to the chores you’ve put off, like cleaning your closets. Get creative about cooking.
With this, it is also important to take this time to rest and revitalize yourself, your body, and your mind. Amidst making the most out of this time, normalize the idea of getting enough rest and heal in the process.
Limit your consumption of news
It is good to stay informed, but overconsuming sensationalistic news or unreliable social media coverage will only fuel worry and fear. Limit how often you check the news or social media and confine yourself to reputable sources.
Connect with others
During this time, find ways to connect and spend time with your friends and loved ones. Take out ways to use this time to nurture your relationships around you. Find time to talk to your friends via video/audio calls, texts, etc. Set up a regular time each day to contact people, and schedule virtual get-togethers on online platforms to talk or maybe even play games or watch movies.
Practice relaxation techniques
Incorporating a relaxation technique such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or a breathing exercise into your daily schedule can provide a welcome break from the cycle of negative thinking, as well as relieve tension and anxiety. If you are experiencing recurring thoughts, remind yourself that you are not your thoughts. Find time to take a long mindful breath each day.
During such a trying time, it is difficult to cope with our surroundings. If you find yourself being on an edge, we urge you to reach out to mental health professionals, since they are also extending their services virtually via skype calls, zoom, etc. These professionals can help you deal not only with your daily life stressors but also, dig deeper with issues that might
have prolonged all this while.
As a mental health NGO, we understand that this global pandemic has caused a lot of disruption and chaos, which is why we suggest finding ways to connect with your own body and mind, and if required, reach out to a professional.
- Dealing with Depression During Coronavirus. (2020) Retrieved from: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/dealing-with-depression-during-coronavirus.htm
- How to Avoid Depression During the Coronavirus Outbreak (2020)
Retrieved from: https://healthmatters.nyp.org/how-to-avoid-depression-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/
- Panchal N., Kamal R., Orgera K., Cox C., Garfield R., Hamel L., Muñana C, Chidambaram P., (2020). Implications Of Covid-19 For Mental Health. Retrieved from: https://www.kff.org/person/kendal-orgera/