To say that the coronavirus has had a significant impact on our lives is an understatement. Nearly every aspect of our daily lives, professional and personal, has been disrupted by the virus, and the widespread measures being implemented to address it. As the end of the year approaches, with continued uncertainty on the horizon, different consequences of the coronavirus are starting to become more apparent. Part of understanding the broader impact of COVID-19 is to look at our mental health and the relationship between COVID-19 and your mental health.
COVID-19 and Your Mental Health
The coronavirus pandemic is a perfect storm of varying factors that could each, independently, create a great amount of stress in our lives There is the fear of the virus itself, concern for our personal well-being and the safety of our friends and loved ones, and possible job uncertainty. In fact, financial anxiety is just as prevalent as health anxiety with respect to COVID-19.*
Stress factors are also present in the way we choose to cope with the virus. With schools being closed and many workers forced to work remotely, anxiety related to isolation has become a new symptom of COVID-19.* For many of us, our normal routines have been disrupted and much of the anxiety that has been reported is related to feelings of isolation and the mental toll of being separated from loved ones.* This break from the normal rhythms of our lives only exacerbates the possibility for mental health-related struggles. Studies show an uptick in depression and anxiety occurrences, and a higher percentage of adults seem to be struggling with mental health issues during the pandemic.*
Seasonal Affective Disorder May Add to the Stress
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that is linked to the changing of the seasons.* Most commonly, SAD is brought on by the fewer hours of sunlight, cold weather, and the increased time spent indoors during the winter months. Symptoms of SAD can be exacerbated by the feeling of social withdrawal and anxiety surrounding school or work. Unfortunately, as we enter the holidays for 2020, SAD may begin to create an even larger mental health burden. Juggling the feeling of pandemic fatigue with the symptoms brought on by the change of season could become a challenge for overall management of our mental health.
Tips to Manage COVID-19 and Your Mental Health in a Safe and Healthy Way
Seek help, if needed. If you or someone you love is struggling with their mental health, it is important to know that professional help is out there and easier than ever to obtain. As a safety precaution during the pandemic, mental health and other healthcare services have already pivoted to telemedicine, which means that help is only a phone call away.
Create a new routine. When looking at the impact of COVID-19 on our mental state, one of the common threads is disruption of routine. Whether you miss working with your team at the office, or find yourself balancing work with homeschooling your children, finding a way to establish a routine is necessary. Creating a routine and structure that you can abide by every day is a recommended practice that is easy to implement.* For example, something as simple as setting a specific time to wake up and go to bed each day, even if there’s nothing on the agenda. Dress for the day (get out of those sweatpants!) and observe regular mealtimes. We crave stability and consistency and safeguarding your routine is an important mental health tool that is entirely in your control.
Exercise. Make time in your new routine for light to moderate exercise, or even just getting outside for a period every day is likely to improve your mental perspective.
Step away from Social Media. The political climate and the minute-to-minute updates on the virus can overwhelm us. Studies have shown that “doom scrolling” – or obsessively checking upsetting news or social media – is having a detrimental impact on our psyches.* So, don’t be afraid to take an extended break from social media and put that phone down!
Take some time for yourself. One of the best mental health strategies is to take good care of yourself and find the time to relax. Adhering to the best practices for limiting COVID-19 risk and spread translates into peace of mind.
These tips as well as many others can go a long way to helping your body and mind cope during this time. We will get through this.
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