We all are still undergoing global trauma and overwhelming levels of stress from the COVID-19 pandemic pushing our abilities to cope with it. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a perfect storm of depression, fear, and anxiety which raises the concern about the next big global crisis- mental health and covid-19! The times of distress and uncertainty continues to disrupt many areas of our daily life, especially mental health.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, with the type and extent of changes it has brought along with it, we no longer look at life how we all used to before. COVID-19 has pushed us toward the next big global crisis awaiting us —mental health.
By now most of the global population is well aware of the physical manifestations of COVID, however mental health challenges related to the virus remain a vastly under-recognized problem till now. Since the pandemic has both short- and long-term implications for mental health, it is critical to pay significant attention to the general public’s mental health.
Mental health and COVID 19 – TOC
Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic at a Household Level
The pandemic brought about an overload of news around us. Along with the constant daily onslaught of global coronavirus news on the effects, spread, and measures to contain the spread of coronavirus, there was overwhelming news focusing on how the pandemic led to financial and emotional struggles related to loss of lives, jobs, income, and health. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, studies have found an increase in domestic violence, alcohol abuse, child abuse, the risk of substance use, and other hardships arising out of the economic fallout as well.
In the long worldwide lockdowns, with sudden school/college closures and sudden transition of life from work-from-office to work-from-home, the world experienced disruption and changes in daily routines.
The world had to redefine its daily schedule across ages. People juggled work and home responsibilities to adjust to the new virtual way of life.
Mental Health Effects of the Pandemic
To reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep us safe, the world took the necessary steps on social distancing, self-quarantines, and lockdowns. However, the pandemic stress and the physical effects of the disease created a lot of psychological issues. These psychological issues can manifest in a lot of ways.
Being cut off from the months of social distancing and sheltering at home left the world feeling isolated and lonely.
During the pandemic, the patients were treated without any direct support from family and friends due to the imposed restrictions, unlike any normal times when people are treated in hospitals. This in itself takes a heavy toll on mental health to not have that caring from your own family and friends. This picture is repeated around the world.
Many studies investigating the mental health impact of the pandemic on the general population and vulnerable groups with COVID-19, revealed the likelihood of the development of one or more mental health disorders. It is being observed that people after getting infected with COVID-19 may have a significant risk of developing an anxiety or mood disorder. The impact and outcomes of social isolation, job-related issues, money or economical issues, health, and the profound feelings of loss of loved ones that many of us are experiencing at the moment can induce depression for the first time.
Key Symptoms of Negative Impacts on Mental Health
Compared with surveys before the pandemic, recent surveys show that during the pandemic, the following are the most common symptoms reported by the world population impacting their well-being.
- Fear of infecting or getting infected
- Anxiety disorder
- Emotional exhaustion
- Suicidal thoughts
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- OC and PTSD
Loneliness and depression are the main reasons for feeling devastated during this pandemic. There are studies that can prove the following changes in people during COVID-19:
- Difficulty in making decisions
- Concentration issues
- Sleep disruptions
- Desires and interests
- Low self-esteem
- Alcohol intake/drugs intake/smoking
The current COVID-19 pandemic is affecting each and every one in one or the other ways. Researchers found that the most vulnerable groups suffering from mental health are:
- Healthcare workers
- Young people
- Migrant workers/daily wage laborers
The covid-19 pandemic is affecting women more than men, women are more likely to report poor mental well-being compared to men. For people who are already suffering from mental health issues like anxiety disorders or depression, situations like the COVID-19 pandemic can exacerbate these pre-existing symptoms.
Tools for Coping with the Mental Condition – Reframing perspective
Everyone reacts differently to painful and worrying times. Even though it might seem we have fewer reasons to be cheerful about at the moment and a silver lining may be especially hard to find during this time, however, simply recognize that you can start to change your focus and take the first step to feel more optimistic.
The first step can be tough but you can break the cycle by focusing on something that adds meaning and purpose to your life.
It’s common to observe people feeling stressed out during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. We respond to any unknown situation with fear and anxiety, which are natural responses to the unknown. And also, although everyone is eagerly hoping and waiting for COVID-19 to fade away in time, the stress caused by it won’t just disappear from your life when the health crisis of COVID-19 ends.
The unprecedented hazards to mental health globally prompted unhealthy ways of coping. Knowing Here are some of the practical tips
- Adjust your mindset and break from the cycle of negative thinking
- Be aware of the things you can and cannot control
- Limit exposure to world news and social media chat groups
- Indulge in self-care-related activities – Deep breathing, yoga, mindful meditation, muscle relaxation
- Focus on a balanced diet that boosts immunity
- Include physical exercise activities, smiling exercises
- Indulge in hobbies and interests – Gardening, creative cooking, reading, listening to uplifting music, learning a skill
- Live the lockdown experience as a moment of personal reflection
- Give importance to sharing moments with family members, friends, and acquaintances
- Reach out and make connections with other people regularly through social support groups, clubs
- Bond socially. Oxytocin is released when you hug someone and Oxytocin is released when social bonds are strengthened.
- Seek help from online psychologists, therapists, counselors, support organizations
- Get routine health check-ups
- Find moments of happiness and reasons to laugh
- Express gratitude
- Give a listening ear to especially the vulnerable elderly population
- Use your moral sense or spiritual connection to life for support
- Get enough sleep
- Spend time with nature
- Recognize what’s really important to you in life
- Share about yourself. Listen to what others are thinking and feeling to form deeper connections
- Resign yourself to feeling isolated and alone
- Unanswered questions, uncertainty, and worries can be causing panic and anxiety
- Skip your medical appointments
- Excessive drinking of alcohol or smoking
- Indulge in drugs
- Slip into bad habits
- Strive for surface human connection. Move beyond small talk.
Opportunities to Care
Isolation is a stress-producing state. Human beings are social creatures as one of our human needs is for connections and the ability to connect is inherent in us.
The world has many opportunities to care for others, maybe in different ways than we did before. The current pandemic that has forced us to keep separated from each other may also be teaching us how to become closer.
To alleviate the burdens of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to bring about actions to reach out beyond ourselves to protect and care has many returns. Several online mental health services and organizations like NAMI, SAMHSA, Neptune Foundation, Trijog, Mastermind Foundation, Samaritans, CRY, The Banyan, Sangath, etc. are reaching out to all of such people who seek assistance in coping with their current mental condition. The Rotary members in Spain connected to elderly people over the telephone.
Many mental health support helplines reported an ever-increasing number of distress calls. Most just said, “We just wanted to talk”.
Don’t feel that you have to go at this alone. Help is available everywhere; you just need to reach out. Take a step back from negative thinking and find a reason to be hopeful.
The Bottom Line
The outbreak of COVID-19 affected people physically, but also psychologically leading to an emerging public mental health crisis.
Living in the age of coronavirus has a profound effect on our mood, which interferes with our ability to think wise, drains our energy, and makes it difficult to get through the day-to-day work. It is normal and understandable that people are still experiencing fear and stress in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fear, worry, and stress are normal responses to such a global threat, especially when we are still faced with uncertainty or the unknown. Even if the symptoms might seem to have gone away, you still might not feel completely normal. It seems unlikely that life will fully return to fully normal any time soon. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by hopelessness and despair, however, there aren’t any easy solutions.
Know that you are not alone. Distanced, maybe, but not isolated. This is the time, an opportunity to really think about what you actually value or really want to do with your life
Although the end may still seem a long way off, we shall also get through this, one day at a time. Take the small steps that can help to lift your mood and improve your outlook towards self and life.
We can rise above the chaos.
“Just because we are self-isolating doesn’t mean we need to truly isolate ourselves.”
— Dr. Robert Leahy