Effects of COVID-19 on Mental Health & How to Combat It
The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching impact on the world and its daily runnings, uprooting lives all over the globe. Many people have seen disruptions to their regular routines. Many others are facing social isolation due to quarantine measures, all while confronting worsening worries about their health and the health of their loved ones, or about their job or educational prospects going forward. Studies have found a resulting increase in the prevalence of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and insomnia in the general population, as well as a worsening of symptoms in those with pre-existing mental health conditions.
Although quarantine measures are winding down in Singapore, scientists largely believe that COVID-19 is here to stay, and that the virus will continue to mutate. When this happens, we are likely to see periods where infection rates may spike drastically, and may thus choose to isolate at home while the number of cases climb. If you have been experiencing deterioration in your mental health, you may be wondering how you can combat the COVID-19 blues. Here are four ways that you can improve mental wellness and achieve a more positive state of mind while self-isolating and settling into our new normal.
1) Keep a routine even while working or studying from home
Psychological studies have shown that daily routines can help buffer the adverse impact of stress on mental health. As such, try to maintain previous routines where possible. Get dressed and shower in the mornings even if you aren’t leaving the house, keep to regular working hours even when you aren’t in office, and go to bed at the same time even if you have nowhere to be in the morning. For those suffering from insomnia, enabling night mode on devices closer to bedtime and refraining from screen time before bed may also help you sleep.
Where routines cannot be maintained, try to replace your usual activities with appropriate substitutes. If quarantine measures are disrupting your daily run or your visits to the gym, replace it with a session of indoor yoga or pilates. Creating new healthy habits, such as regular exercise and a healthy diet, may also help if you’re experiencing increased anxiety or distress.
2) Stay in touch with family, friends, and coworkers
Studies report that people who feel more connected to those around them experience increased mental wellness. As such, as quarantine measures begin to ease, take some time to catch up with friends or coworkers you may not have seen in a while. Reach out to coworkers or classmates via email, text, or video conferencing if you are continuing to work or study from home, and take the opportunity to spend more time with family while at home.
Receiving emotional support has been shown to help alleviate psychological distress and improve mental health, so try reaching out to loved ones when the anxiety or depressive thoughts get too much, but also be sure to offer your own support in return. As recent research has found, helping others can serve to distract you from your own negative thoughts, while also improving self-esteem and emotional well-being.
3) Limit exposure to news about the pandemic
Exposing yourself to constant news about the pandemic can heighten your anxiety about the disease and serve as a stress trigger. As such, refrain from seeking out news relating to the pandemic and resist attempts to read articles that appear on your social media feeds. Platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Tiktok allow you mute or filter out posts containing certain keywords. You can use this feature to stop posts containing pandemic-related keywords from appearing on your feed.
Finally, misinformation passed through social media can cause undue fear, so it’s important to keep up with news about the pandemic through credible sources such as the WHO or local health ministries. Fact check information gained through social media and refrain from falling for fear mongering attempts.
4) See a mental health professional
If symptoms persist despite your best efforts, you may benefit from seeing a mental health professional. Medication can be used to aid sleep, or to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. A therapist can also help you develop coping strategies to buffer the effects of stress on your mental health. Some methods may include cognitive restructuring to interrupt and redirect negative thought patterns, or relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises and mindfulness-based practice.
If you or a loved one are suffering from pandemic-related distress, a psychiatrist or psychologist at Private Space Medical can help you to manage your symptoms holistically.