5 Effective Ways to Avoid the Impact of Coronavirus on your Mental Health
The COVID-19 pandemic came unexpectedly and drastically changed all of our lives for the foreseeable future. This dramatic turn of events has caused a huge increase in stress and pressure in our lives and has affected many people’s mental health.
Mental health can be considered a taboo subject that affects everyone, but comes with a stigma that means people don’t want to discuss it for fear of seeming weak or unstable. The inability to manage our mental health, due to unwillingness or simply not knowing how to do it, can have effects on every aspect of our lives and happiness.
In this blog we will be discussing the effects that the coronavirus pandemic has had on our overall mental wellbeing, why it’s important to maintain good mental health, and ways in which we can go about improving it, such as:
- Doing what you love
- Getting creative
- Looking after physical health
- Being social
- Asking for help
Poor mental health can affect our emotional well being, our overall happiness, and even cause physical health conditions. It affects a person’s everyday thoughts and feelings, causes high blood pressure, increased heart rate and the risk of heart disease. So it’s important to have a good understanding of your own mental health and factors that could cause it to decrease or increase in stability.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on all of our lives and has resulted in the number of adults suffering from symptoms of mental illness to increase from one in ten to one in four. This means a quarter of adults living in 2021 experience symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as other disorders that greatly affect our mental well being.
The pandemic has caused us to change how we live and go about our day to day lives. Worldwide lockdowns have meant that we can no longer see our friends and family, with some of us not having seen a loved one in person for around a year. This can lead to social isolation and feelings of loneliness, stress, and social anxiety.
Universities have closed, schools have shut down, many people have lost their jobs or are working from home, parents are having to homeschool children while working, and essential workers are dealing with the stress and anxiety that comes with putting yourself at risk each and every day to earn a living.
According to the World Health Organization, COVID-19 has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide, while demand has increased.
The increased stress caused by the pandemic, and other everyday factors can have a negative impact on just about every aspect of our lives. It can cause fear, anger, frustration, sadness, worry, and a feeling of numbness, which can lead to a change in appetite and increased likelihood of developing an eating disorder. If you’re feeling stressed you may see changes in your interest in things like hobbies, interests, libido, food, ability sleeping and an increase in nightmares.
Physical health conditions can develop or be heightened by stress, and those already living with mental illness can find it harder to cope. This can lead to increased use of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances to manage physical and mental pain.
So, it’s important to be aware of your mental health and notice if you see it changing in any way. Here are some ways that you can manage and monitor your mental health, while helping to alleviate the negative impacts of stress and the pandemic.
Do What You Love
Make sure that you take the time out of your schedule daily to do something that you know you love, or try something new. Research shows that people with hobbies are less likely to suffer from stress, feeling low, and experiencing depression, than those who don’t participate in activities.
Different hobbies have different effects on our mental health. For example, playing team sports can improve our communication and social skills and build relationships with others, which reduces the feeling of isolation and loneliness, as well as increasing our physical health.
Hobbies associated with music also have tremendous benefits to our mental health, whether it’s listening to our favourite songs, or playing an instrument.
Even using social media, to a certain extent, can help us to feel included and more social. But it’s important to note that social media can also have some negative effects on our mental health and we should be fully aware of how we respond to the websites and use them sparingly.
Being creative, whether it comes naturally or not, has a massive positive impact on our wellbeing and mental health, as well as boosting our immune system and increasing our physical health.
Doing arts and crafts can help to achieve a creative flow, when we lose our sense of time and self, and become fully focused on the creative process. This creative flow has been compared to meditation and helps to manage stress, reduce anxiety, and slow down our heart rate. It also usually ends up with a sense of achievement when the process has finished and you have your creation in front of you. Whether you’ve painted a portrait, crafted a desk tidy, or knitted a terrible wool sweater, our brain will see this as an achievement and release dopamine, making us feel proud and happy. It will also make us feel more enthusiastic and want to do something else creative.
Repetitive creative motions, such as drawing, painting, knitting, gardening, sewing, and writing help our mind focus and calms us down when we are suffering from seemingly uncontrollable feelings of anxiety or stress. Writing in particular helps us to manage our emotions and understand our own mental health, while drawing or painting can be a way for people to express themselves when they can’t find the words.
Creativity has also been shown to have a positive effect on our immune systems. Those who journal or express themselves creatively every day appear to have stronger immune functions, though scientists are not sure why this is. It can even slow down the effects of dementia and make us smarter, helping to connect the left and right brains and helping us to focus and increase cognitivity.
Look After Your Physical Health
Just as your mental health can affect your physical health, the reverse is also true. Having poor physical health due to an unhealthy diet and lack of an exercise routine can have negative effects on our mental state.
Poor public health has shown higher rates of anxiety and depression in adults, and those with a chronic illness of pain are highly likely to have a mental disorder. So, maintaining good physical health is key to managing anxiety and other mental health problems.
Studies show that exercising for just 10 minutes, such as taking a brisk walk or running, can release endorphins that make us feel happier and have a positive impact on our mood and thought process.
As well as exercising, having a healthy and balanced diet is also important for our overall health. An unhealthy diet and a lack of exercise can lead to eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, while eating healthily can combat the symptoms of mental health disorders.
It’s also a good idea to have a friend join you when exercising and eating healthily, to maintain a good social life and have the support and reinforcement of a loved one.
It’s harder than ever before to be social right now. So make sure that you are following the rules of your area regarding social distancing when you meet up or communicate with others.
It’s important to have the support of your loved ones, especially if you’re struggling with your mental health. You need to let them know how you’re feeling, and listen to the advice of those who care about you the most.
If you are not able to contact loved ones via social media, phone calls, mail, or online calls, then try to get involved with your local community or find like-minded people online. Talking to others and discussing our feelings helps us to recognise and take steps to manage them.
Ask For Help
If you are feeling overwhelmed by symptoms of poor mental health, or you feel that you are unable to manage. Get in touch with trained professionals who are there to support and guide you through this testing time.
Contact your healthcare provider if you feel that stress and its symptoms are getting in the way of your daily activities, and check out crisis resources to connect with skilled counselors who can give you advice and tips on how to manage.
If your thoughts become suicidal, don’t hesitate to call 911, 1-800-273 -TALK(2855), or contact the CDC.
Anxiety Canada is also holding weekly Town Hall meetings online to talk about anxiety and answer your questions, if you feel more comfortable in a small group than one-on-one.
Don’t forget to practice every day relaxation techniques if you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or emotional due to the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. Take deep breaths, meditate, get plenty of sleep, and continue with your regular preventative measures like health checks and therapy.
We all need to stay on top of your mental health, and while the past year has been challenging it’s important not to give up and to take control as much as we can.