Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 itself can lead to neurological and mental complications, such as delirium, agitation, and stroke. People with pre-existing mental, neurological or substance use disorders are also more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection. They may stand a higher risk of severe outcomes and even death.
How to Protect Your Mental Health
- Recognize that your anxiety is completely normal.
If school closures and worrying headlines are making you anxious, you are not the only one. Actually, that is how you should be feeling.
“Psychologists have long recognized that anxiety is a normal and healthy function that alerts us to threats and helps us take measures to protect ourselves”, says Dr. Lisa Damour, expert adolescent psychologist, best-selling author and monthly New York Times columnist.
- Find a distraction.
“Psychologists know that when people are in chronically difficult conditions it’s helpful to divide the problem into two categories: things they can do something about, and then things they can do nothing about”, says Dr. Damour.
There’s going to be a lot in that second category right now, and that’s fine, but what can help us cope are distractions. Dr. Damour suggests doing homework, watching favourite movies or reading books, as ways to make it easier for ourselves and to find a balance in everyday life.
- Find new ways to connect with friends.
If you want to spend time with your friends while limiting your face time, social media are a great way to connect. Be creative: join TikTok challenges such as #safehands. “I would never underestimate the creativity of teenagers”, says Dr. Damour and adds: “My hunch is that they will find ways to [connect] online that are different from how they’ve been doing it before.”
„[But] it’s not a good idea to have unfettered access to screens and/or social media. That’s not healthy, that’s not smart and it may amplify the anxiety”, says Dr. Damour and recommends making a schedule for social media time together with parents.
- Focus on yourself.
Have you wanted for a while now to learn to do something new, to start reading a new book, or to devote time to playing an instrument? Now is the time to do all that.
While some of us enjoy staging at home and the freedom it offers to many aspects of our life (i.e. not having to wear pants during work-as long as you remember not to stand up in front of your laptop during a video meet;) some other take this pretty hard, too. They whom originally enjoy being in a crowd, for example, may have been struggling to keep themselves sane these past months we spend in quarantine.
If you belong to the latter group, please beware. As much as we are trying to stay healthy outside, we should not forget that we also ought to stay healthy inside. Giving yourself a treat every once in a while, for example, is actually suggested. Whether you buy a pretty dress or a skin-care set online, you should give yourself some love and have a me-time at least once a week.
- Connect with your feelings
Missing events with friends, hobbies and sports is very disappointing. “These are major losses. They are very upsetting for all, including teenagers”, Dr. Damour says. What is the best way to deal with disappointment? Allow yourself to feel it. “When it comes to having a painful feeling, the only way out is through. Go be sad, and if you allow yourself to do it, you will feel better soon.”
Everyone processes their feelings in a different way. “Some children are going to make art, some are going to want to talk to their friends and use their shared sadness as a way to feel connected in a time when they can’t be together in person, and some children are going to want to find ways to get food to food banks”, says Dr. Damour. It’s important to do what you feel is right and useful.
Enjoying time with the family is aso one thing that can keep your stress level low. Granted, children can cause serious headache sometimes; but let’s admit, we also enjoy seeing them doing what they do, right? Well, as we’re entering the end of October, why not organize a mini trick or treating or even invent other fun things to do as a family on Hallowe’en? Not only you, but the kids will be happy, too. Win-win!
- Be kind to yourself and others
Some teenagers are facing online bullying and violence due to coronavirus. “Activating bystanders is the best way to address any kind of bullying”, says Dr. Damour.
For you who live alone, you might choose between using a AI app that can be your virtual friend, or adopt a pet to be your real friend. AI apps have been growing like mushrooms do in rainy season. They must have sensed the need to talk and be social with someone, even if it was not a real person.
Most of these apps are even equipped with therapy features, in which you are able to take therapy sessions with capable consultants at a fracture of the cost you’ll spend in a real therapist’s office.
Sports and meditation are also known for their therapeutic therapy. While jogging through those lush paddy fields, you have all the time in the world to reminisce and really contemplate about things in life that you can have nowhere else. Both sports and meditation are good to have as a daily habit to help you stay healthy inside and out.
If you’re still feeling down after all that, you might want to have a closer look and have yourself checked by professionals. Please take care of your selves, people! What about you, what do you do to stay happy and healthy inside?