If you are worried you are not alone: How Covid-19 May Impact Our Mental Health

If you are worried you are not alone: How Covid-19 May Impact Our Mental Health

  • Part of the human condition is that we have a need to feel safe.  Our feelings of safety occur when we have predictability and a sense of certainty about our world. Unfortunately this sense of certainty and predictability is being greatly challenged in the face of Covid-19 when we are unsure of our job and financial security, our future health and that of our families and friends, the availability of the services upon which we rely for all aspects of our lives including for medical, food, grooming, religious, socializing and entertainment, not to mention the availability of common household items like toilet paper.

 

  • The rules on how to fight this pandemic are changing daily which again offends our need for predictability and means that we have to make rapid changes which often cause distress and worry.

 

  • As such it is likely that many if not most people will suffer feelings of anxiety and distress during this difficult time. It is also likely that these feelings will intensify as we see numbers of cases increase and required social rules implemented.

 

  • With lockdowns being implemented and social isolation occurring as necessary measures to fight this virus, it is likely that depression and suicide will increase, with many dealing with the loss of loved ones, the difficulty of being ill or seeing a friend or family member ill, being unable to see colleagues, friends and families; financial difficulty, boredom, hopelessness, loneliness and for some health workers, burnout.

Why Is It Important to Protect and Prioritise My Mental Health during Covid-19

  • Stress suppresses immune function- one of the best things we could do right now is to dedicate some time in doing things to reduce levels of distress to assist our bodies should we come in contact with the virus.

 

  • Stress and worry compromises our problem solving abilities- in a time of rapid change and fluctuation what will help us to get through challenges we face, whether it be running out of toilet paper or managing limited finances is being able to think outside of the box. This becomes increasingly difficult when we suffer stress and our thinking becomes rigid instead of flexible to assist with adaptation.

What Can I Do To Keep Mentally Healthy in the Face of Covid-19?
  • Keep a regular social rhythm

  • Our social rhythms are the routines that are governed by our social activities, for example, our work, family commitments and exercise regimes. When many are in isolation or are now working from home it is easy to become sloppy with our usual social cues that drive our body clocks. We may find ourselves waking at different times, taking naps we wouldn’t usually take, eating at different times, not exercising etc. Furthermore, the people we may be isolating with, their social rhythms which may also be in flux can also impact our social rhythms. These disruptions can lead to hormone changes and mood instability which is commonly seen in Depression and Bipolar Disorder.

  • To keep a regular social rhythm:

  • Use alarms and stick to the same wake and sleep times you would normally engage in if you were attending work

  • Stick to the usual meal times you would have if at work

  • Identify important social cues for your clock and substitute similar activities e.g. you may no longer be attending a gym but can you engage in an exercise program in your backyard (online resources by many fitness professionals are available to assist)

  • Try to emulate the same exposure to sunlight as you would normally have if attending work. E.g. If you had a 15 minute walk from your car to work in the sun – engage in a 15minute walk at the same time

  • Keep physical exercise and movement as similar as possible- if you regularly walk around your office – regularly walk around your home instead of staying stationary.

  • Keep yourself and your family's activities and engagements where possible e.g. if you usually had a singing lesson at 4pm on a Monday – look For an online singing teacher. Think outside the box – ask your teachers if they have online programs they can suggest.

  • Keep the same social interactions where possible with family, colleagues and friends. Consider all the social interactions you make in your day and don’t dismiss the little ones - set up a call with colleagues who you would normally banter with throughout the day. Speak regularly with family and friends via telephone or teleconference.

  • Shower and dress as if you would be going to work

  • Find something stimulating to learn or do e.g complete professional development, online training, learn a language, plant a vegetable garden.

  • Expose yourself to enough sunlight

  • Limit exposure to media If feeling overwhelmed

  • Be flexible and broad in your thinking- ask what could I do instead of what I was doing before? Brainstorm ideas

  • Give up on perfect- this is a different time and just because you cant do exactly what you did before doesn’t mean you give up all together. Make room for frustration but know that doing something of what you love or enjoy is better than doing nothing

  • Remember this is temporary and this too shall pass

  • Remember You are important- whether you have been deemed to work in an éssential’or ‘non -essential’ industry, You are essential and are an important thread in the bigger tapestry. This means that you have people around you, some who may not even be on your radar who consider you essential whether it be because of the smile you give, the kind gesture you make, the crude joke you say which makes them laugh or the simple nod you give a stranger who was needing just something to get through. Poor mental health can result in reduced motivation, increased feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, just to name a few which steers us away from the people we want to be and stops us from connecting and sharing our uniqueness with those around us which is essential.

  • Reach out- Speak to a GP if you are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, hopeless, easily irritated or depressed. They may issue a Mental Health Care Plan which will allow you to access visits with a psychologist who will help with specific strategies to assist you.

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