These are unique times; as we adapt to move forward and adjust to a new way of living, we’re learning new ways to stay safe and function in society as it exists today. Widespread fear and anxiety regarding the unknown has many wondering what life on the other side of this pandemic means. We know things won’t just go back to the way they used to be, but we can’t stay in isolation forever. With being stuck inside away from friends and loved ones, millions of people are now faced with challenges they may not have considered.
Loneliness, depression, and anxiety are just a few of the mental challenges our populations are now experiencing first hand. Mental health and COVID-19 hold an unfortunate and tense relationship. In many cases, social interaction plays a huge role in our mental stability and health. Interacting with each other, venting, sharing fond memories, and taking part in community events are imperative to a happy, healthy mental state. So what do we do when we’re practicing safer-at-home regulations and shutting ourselves off from such an important part of our daily lives? We’ll discuss some ways isolation is negatively impacting our mental health, and some positive ways to fight depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders affecting many of us during this pandemic.
Mental Health and COVID-19 – Combating Loneliness
With such drastic changes in our daily routines and with uncertainty about how our lives may be affected forever, it’s no wonder that more people worldwide are reporting more instances of depression, anxiety, and, loneliness. After all, human interaction is wholly necessary for the human psyche to stay happy, healthy and functioning. So what are the effects these current times are having on our mental health? In a study published in August of 2011, researchers showed that social relationships have both long-term and short-term effects on mental and physical health.
In another study from 2013, research linked loneliness to a higher occurrence of decreasing cognitive function later in life. Aside from a decrease in cognitive function, other physical ailments became more prevalent. Higher blood pressure, weakened immune system, heart disease, and obesity are just a few examples of how loneliness brought about by isolation can impact our bodies physically.
The key to combating loneliness, depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders experienced during this pandemic isn’t a one size fits all answer. It’s important to consider a few important components of our current situation to help ourselves and our loved ones make it through these difficult times and come out the other side healthy and happy. Next, we’ll take a look at some ways we can help keep our spirits up, and our brains engaged.
Mental Health During a Pandemic – Self Care
We know that humans are social creatures; most of us thrive on, and more importantly, need social interaction and engagement in order to remain healthy both physically and mentally. It is important to discuss the many ways in which we can help ourselves while in isolation during the current pandemic. There are a variety of resources available, and we’ve put together some easy and beneficial ways to help your mental health while practicing safe social distancing.
- Behavioral activation – This proven method, that falls under cognitive-behavioral therapy, is meant to increase your contact with positive, rewarding, and pleasurable activities that encompass the way individuals want to live their lives. Behavioral activation is the act of thinking of a task that makes you happy or brings enjoyment, and making yourself do it. Even during times when you may not want to do this task at all, it’s important to engage and encourage these actions. By rallying yourself and completing these enjoyable activities, you’ll brighten your mood and feel accomplished; this simple act can reduce depression or anxiety-related disorders.
Connect with other people – Many medical institutes are now offering telehealth appointments and other resources to help those suffering from loneliness, anxiety, and depression. It’s also great for our minds when we can connect to other loved ones and stay active. Human interaction is imperative for us to maintain a positive and healthy mental state.. By engaging in virtual meetings and utilizing services from social platforms and streaming services, we can connect with loved ones and chat. It may not be the same as sitting down for dinner at your local restaurant, but it’s been proven that these social interactions have a huge impact on our positive mental attitude. Some people have found that getting involved in social causes or helping organize charitable events and fundraisers has helped them gain a more positive perspective on their pandemic related lives.
- Take care of your physical health – Because such a drastic change in our daily routines has been brought about by isolation and safe-at-home orders, our bodies are experiencing changes quickly and aggressively. It’s important to maintain a semblance of normalcy by engaging in physical activities that can help improve your mental and physical health. Eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep are top on the list. While some struggled with insomnia even before the pandemic, a disruption in our normal daily routines and added anxiety about our current situation are contributing factors to interruptions in healthy sleep behaviors. To further manage our physical health while we establish a new normal, removing stimulants like tobacco and caffeine, reducing screen time, and getting outside for walks can be helpful in overcoming health obstacles due to isolation.
- Take care of your mental health – With loneliness taking the wheel, many people are succumbing to a variety of mental hurdles and disorders they may not have struggled with previously. If you find that you’re becoming overwhelmed with current events, it’s ok to step away from the onslaught of constant media coverage, both televised and online. Pick up a new hobby, engage in online forums with people who share your interests, and take a moment to reflect and relax.reflect. Prioritize your day, set limits, allow yourself room to process and understand that your mental health and COVID-19 are engaged in a complicated dance. The anxiety surrounding the unknown, important life events and decisions that may be impacted by the current pandemic, and what life will look like as we move forward can be daunting and overwhelming. If possible, utilize local mental wellness groups and reach out to chat when things seem tough to handle.
We know everyone is processing our current health climate in different ways, but with more time on our hands, fewer things to do outside of the home, and with so many things left uncertain, the struggle is real and how it impacts our mental health is becoming very apparent. While we learn to adapt to a new way of life, our mental health should be a priority. Help foundations like the United Brain Association find better ways to cope with mental health and brain disorders through donations or by raising awareness of disorders and mental health issues. Our goal is to find a cure, and you can help! You can also stay informed of our progress when you sign up for our email newsletter today.