As coronavirus continues to put our lives on hold, experts have noticed an increase in mental health problems among people worldwide. Along with patients who were already receiving professional attention before the pandemic, the panic and hysteria caused by the lockdown and the uncertainties around the virus are affecting other people too.
Some people have lost their jobs while others are trying very hard to make the ends meet as the economy is suffering. Furthermore, celebrities and influencers posting productive activities on social media are also proving to be destructive for some as not every individual is in the right headspace to learn a new skill or practice an old hobby.
Social interaction has also been limited so people do not have their friends and family close by to discuss their issues and while everyone’s problems are different, we have compiled a list of coping mechanisms that you can use to make sure you remain mentally healthy and emotionally strong.
Mindfulness can be achieved by employing many outlets. You can perform meditation, observe various breathing techniques, or write in a journal to gain perspective. Many people have said that mindfulness is keeping them sane during these tough times as it helps in shaping a more positive mindset.
One of the most popular suggestions given to the BBC was to practice gratitude, focusing on the small, pleasant moments each day brings, as well as larger things like family and community.
Amanda Owen-Meehan from the UK suggests that we should write things down every day that have brought positive changes in our lives even if they seem small. She said, “Also, try to write down worries and stresses as they come to mind during the day. Revisit the list at the end of the day and for those worries that are still hanging around, ask yourself ‘Can I fix this?’ If the answer is no, try to let it go. If yes, start working on an action plan to fix it.”
Kim Knight from New Zealand wrote to BBC and said, “One of the most important things for dispelling fear is to come back to the present moment. We must learn to control our thoughts, and in particular stop the habit of worry (mentally rehearsing what we don’t want to happen) and ‘worst-case-scenario-thinking’ which just leads to fear, stress [and] despair.”
Now you need to make sure you’re eating right and dedicating small portions of your day for physical exercise because that is closely tied in with your mental health.
Mansur Damiev, from the UAE, enjoys 15-30 minutes of daily exercise, saying, “It does not matter how you do that and for how long. Jump, walk from one corner to the other, do push-ups, sit-ups. Just push that sweat out of your body and it will boost your mood into a far better condition than you would ever think!”
Dianne Zukova from Latvia alternates between yoga sessions at home and running through a nearby forest. She shares her workout routines via Instagram and tries to encourage other people to maintain their health. “Whenever I run out of ideas for workouts, as it might get a bit demotivating in these conditions, I turn to live workouts conducted by fitness clubs or celebrities even.”
Distraction and denial are two different concepts so do not mix them. Sometimes, it becomes important to keep yourself distracted with hobbies and practices that you enjoy so your mind can shift focus from destructive thoughts.
Mansur Damiev’s advice is to choose a good book “that will take you to another universe and help to distract from your daily challenges and negative anxious thoughts”, while in the UK Julia McKee is growing fruit and vegetables for the first time. She began planting seeds when lockdown began and is now ‘thrilled’ to see new shoots. “I now have them growing at various stages including courgette, aubergine, spring onions, shallots, garlic, tomatoes, green beans, and strawberries. I have never done this before and I am ever so slightly excited each day when more shoots appear.”
In the US, Krista Volden believes finding activities that bring you and others joy is really important. “My flatmate and I have been playing music from our home countries and sharing the videos with family and friends back home (we’re international students).”
Listen to Your Body
For some people, the above-mentioned approaches do not work as they feel a constant pressure to fulfill the tasks in order to feel validated. This is why it is important to listen to your mind and body. You need to evaluate whether the outlets you are using are actually benefiting you or just making you more stressed because of working on the clock. The purpose is to lessen the anxiety but if it has the opposite effect, then drop it at once.
Aline Velho, a flight attendant from the UK, has been home alone for over a month now but doesn’t set herself a schedule. She says it helps avoid frustration if she doesn’t meet set expectations. “Just take it easy every day and do[ing] what I feel each day and enjoy this ‘dolce fare niente’[pleasant idleness]. I must admit that as a flight attendant my body is a bit happy with the break, although I miss the skies terribly already.”
Charlotte Darbyshire supports this approach, saying “Your value isn’t based on your productivity… Trying to fill time to the extreme won’t necessarily help our mental health as it puts an extra pressure on ourselves. What’s most important is listening to our minds and bodies and responding as appropriate. If watching Netflix will make you calmer than learning a new language, then that’s okay.”
So yes, the times are rough but you need to hold on to yourself and let your body dictate your mind. Do whatever feels more comfortable and brings you joy. It looks like we would be stuck indoors for a while so it is better to concentrate on yourself and find happiness from within so when you step out after the pandemic, you feel better about yourself.