2020 and 2021, years none of us anticipated. Never did I anticipate that I would live through a pandemic, one that takes lives daily across the world. Now this pandemic on its own is a lot to deal with, adding to that we still need to be parents, partners, employees, friends, etc. Now how does one handle all these and still give your 100%?
Let’s talk mental health during this pandemic. What exactly is mental health?
This includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Across the world all our mental well-being has been affected one way or the other, which may be because of bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety. These are realities that we are faced with. Now with all these factors affecting people how are we required to continue as per normal, not a lot of people can say their mental health is still intact and is still the same as in 2019.
The five main warning signs of mental illness are as follows:
- Excessive paranoia, worry, or anxiety.
- Long-lasting sadness or irritability.
- Extreme changes in moods.
- Social withdrawal.
- Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping pattern.
Not many of us can say that not one of the above affects us today. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on our lives. Many of us are facing challenges that can be stressful, overwhelming, and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but they can make us feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. Learning to cope with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and those around you become more resilient. As at 21-08-2021, the death toll due to COVID-19 sits at 4,42 million people? How many families and lives have been impacted due to this high number of deaths? How are we expected to still function and still be the same? How does employers still expect employees to perform exactly the same way they did in 2019? How do schools expect kids to perform as another child did in 2019? How do we expect our finances to be the same? How do we expect relationships to be the same?
Stress can cause the following:
Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration.
Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests.
Difficulty concentrating and making decisions.
Difficulty sleeping or nightmares.
Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes.
Worsening of chronic health problems and worsening of mental health conditions.
Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances.
It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, we have vaccination sites popping up daily to ensure people are vaccinated. Why don’t we have governments, corporates, and employers investing in drives to assist with people’s mental well-being? Seems like still, even in the midst of a global pandemic, mental well-being is not a priority.
Take care of your mind and reduce stress triggers:
Keep your regular routine. Maintaining a regular schedule is important to your mental health. Also set aside time for activities you enjoy. This could make you feel more in control.
Limit exposure to news media. Constant news about COVID-19 from all types of media can heighten fears about the disease. Limit social media use.
Stay busy. A distraction can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression. Enjoy hobbies that you can do at home, identify a new project or clean out that closet you promised you’d get to.
Focus on positive thoughts. Choose to focus on the positive things in your life, instead of dwelling on how bad you feel.
Consider starting each day by listing things you are thankful for. Maintain a sense of hope, work to accept changes as they occur, and try to keep problems in perspective.
Use your moral compass or spiritual life for support. If you draw strength from a belief system, it can bring you comfort during difficult times.
Set priorities. Don’t become overwhelmed by creating a life-changing list of things to achieve while you’re home.
Set reasonable goals each day and outline steps you can take to reach those goals. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small.
I know the above is easier said than done, but try and also recognize that some days will be better than others.
Build support and strengthen relationships:
Make connections. Find time each day to make virtual connections by email, texts, phone, or FaceTime. If you’re working remotely from home, ask your co-workers how they’re doing and share coping tips. Enjoy virtual socializing and talking to those in your home.
Do something for others. Find purpose in helping the people around you. Support a family member or friend. If a family member or friend needs to be isolated for safety reasons or gets sick and needs to be quarantined at home or in the hospital, come up with ways to stay in contact.
Please know, stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. Everyone reacts differently to difficult situations, and it’s normal to feel stress and worry during a crisis. But multiple challenges daily, such as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, can push you beyond your ability to cope. Many people may have mental health concerns, such as symptoms of anxiety and depression, during this time. And feelings may change over time however despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling helpless, sad, angry, irritable, hopeless, anxious or afraid. You may have trouble concentrating on typical tasks, changes in appetite, body aches and pains, or difficulty sleeping, or you may struggle to face routine chores.
Just know it is ok to not be ok, if it gets too much, please reach out for help because you are needed. If you are not functioning as you did in 2019 that too is ok. Do not put any pressure on yourself. Be kind and gentle with yourself, simply take it 1 day at a time, and Let us look after ourselves, we now more than ever need to prioritize our mental well-being.