The Mental Health Impact of COVID-19 and How to Cope

With the sheer number of cases being reported daily, the toll on the public’s mental health is becoming increasingly alarming. Here’s what to be aware of, and some coping mechanisms that could help.

It’s no surprise that the ongoing pandemic has given birth to, and exacerbated, mental health issues across demographics—it is objectively a traumatic event. Along with the impact of measures that have been put in place to protect the population—like isolating and social distancing—the prolonged sense of uncertainty that seems to be prevailing can be a cause for anxiety and stress. Then there’s the trauma that comes from losing loved ones to the disease, seeing the rising number of deaths, and perhaps falling ill oneself. The pandemic has also led to job losses and insecurities regarding essentials, like food, all of which are cause for anxiety. In a study undertaken by the CDC among American adults in 2020, “31% of respondents reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, 13% reported having started or increased substance use, 26% reported stress-related symptoms.” People across the country in India are also self-reporting higher levels of stress, impaired sleep, and high levels of anxiety—this is coupled with increased incidents of suicides and substance abuse, which are also being reported across the globe.

Seeing that this is a situation no one was prepared for, it is vital for people to understand that firstly, it is natural to feel this way, secondly, monitoring one’s mental health should be given more importance, and thirdly, timely intervention can save lives.

Anxiety and stress can manifest in physical ways, too. For instance, you may be experiencing some of the following:

Inability to concentrate or focus
Change in appetite and sleeping patterns, insomnia
Frequent headaches and feelings of nausea
Change in breathing patterns (faster and sharper breaths)
Trembling or shaking
Stomach issues
These symptoms could be occurring because your body is sensing a dangerous situation and is preparing itself accordingly—of course, symptoms will vary from person to person, and anxiety manifests itself in different ways for different people. But, these are some of the most common ones, and making note of them can help you take charge of your mental health.

Being aware of the support systems available is of increasing importance, and with a growing understanding and acknowledgement of mental health issues, there are more options available to people. There are also some at-home practices one can follow to cope better and take care of oneself.

  1. Consult a professional
    Experts in the mental health sphere are consulting with patients via video calls and regular calls, ensuring that no one has to press pause on their mental health journey. Speaking to a professional can help you confront your fears and find healthy coping mechanisms, making you better equipped to handle stressful situations in the future. The impact of COVID-19 is bound to remain for a long time after, and it’s important to proactively take care of one’s mental health.
  2. Take control
    Since a lot of this global anxiety is stemming from uncertainty, it could help to have a contingency plan should you or a loved one fall ill—discussing isolation protocols, etc. Knowing that you are prepared can ease the burden, and could also have practical benefits.
  3. Stay active
    Everyone has been advising this, and for good reason—physical activity will help you feel better, and it doesn’t even have to be an intense form. Finding what works for you is key, this could be a socially-distanced walk (which, if taken during the day, could help you get more sunlight, something most people are lacking right now), or an online group class. The latter will also help you find a community, another way to ease anxiety. For those who cannot partake in strenuous forms of exercise, there are an array of virtual yoga classes that focus solely on mindfulness. Another benefit of yoga is it could improve your breathing if practised properly and regularly, allowing you to ground yourself. Of course, this goes hand-in-hand with the fact that you shouldn’t feel the need to push yourself to be productive at all hours of the day, or punish yourself if not—find a pace that works for you.
  4. Mindful news intake
    Staying aware of the situation is absolutely necessary, given that it’s one that is continuously changing. But, if you can schedule a small portion of the day where you don’t listen to or read about the news, preferably before going to sleep, it could help.
  5. Offer support and connect with communities
    Some people find respite through social interactions, so remember to stay in touch with your friends and family who may not be comfortable opening up about the issues they are currently facing. They may need a while to open up, but regular check-ins can help people around you. It’ll also help give you a chance to open up about how you’re feeling. Offering support to your community can also boost your own self-esteem during these trying times. This can be done by donating to not-for-profit organisations that are helping those impacted by the pandemic and who may not have access to essentials like regular meals—by doing so, you could not only make a difference but also take a step towards alleviating symptoms of anxiety.
  6. Prioritise yourself
    If possible, try and find some time to partake in activities that bring you joy—whether that’s cooking, reading or any other creative activity. Prioritising yourself also entails ensuring a healthy, well-rounded diet, something that can be overlooked during stressful times.

At Seva At Home, we produce a wealth of free health information to help elders live healthier, happier lives. This has been produced by independent research carried out by the Seva At Home team. This information is not a replacement for medical advice. Please consult your physician for relevant medical diagnosis and advice.

To learn more about our home care services in India, contact our caregiving team today at +1 (603) 718-4828 if you are based in North America, or at 1800-120-800-003 if you are based in India.

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