The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to our familial and social life, uncertainty, financial pressures, social isolation and altered daily routines. Most people are worried about getting infected by the virus, questions are being asked on how long the pandemic will last and the aftermath of it. With information overload, rumors, misinformation, it is evident that the pandemic is contributing directly and indirectly to psychological and social well-being of most people across the globe. The pandemic is occurring against the backdrop of increased prevalence of mental health issues in most countries.
During this pandemic, terms such as social distancing, social isolation, quarantine, lockdowns, stay home, wash hands have commonly been used and these have led to various reactions in people as they perceive them as things that need to be done but have adversely affected their normal life. The COVID-19 has been associated with changes in mood (from normal to rollercoaster moments), feeling irritable, being too anxious to a point of getting angry, change in sleep pattern either having difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much. Change in sleep patterns may in turn lead to changes in appetite and weight might change our mental aspect. Cases of increased clinical anxiety and depression are bound to be high which might contribute to self-harm or suicide. To most couples, staying home has brought about sharing confined spaces while navigating with working at home, sudden unemployment, child care, unceasing uncertainty which has led to cases of increased domestic violence/child abuse. Other psychosocial risks associated with this pandemic are; alcohol/substance misuse, gambling, hoarding, lack of meaning in life, relationship breakdown, fear, feeling a burden and cyberbullying. People will respond differently to the psychological effects of the pandemic, if an individual realizes that their normal coping strategies are not working and symptoms seem to interfere with work, family or social life, “that’s probably where support is needed”.
In trying to maintain mental health equilibrium, self-care strategies may help and these may include:
•Get enough sleep by ensuring you get to bed and wake up at the same times each day even if you are staying home.
•Engage in regular physical activity to reduce anxiety and improve mood.
•Eat healthy (well-balanced diet) avoiding junk food and refined food. Limit caffeine intake as it induces anxiety and stress. Avoid alcohol, tobacco and drug use. They only lower your coping skills and makes matter worse.
•Limit your screen time and exposure to news/social media. This helps in shielding you from rumors and false information that might heighten your anxiety levels.
•Stay busy, get distracted from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression. Engage in hobbies you enjoy while at home, try something new(cooking), clean up the house, play with kids etc.
•Be grateful and focus on the positive aspects of your life at the start and end of the day. Maintain a sense of hope by drawing your strength from your belief system.
•Make connections, build and strengthen relationships by keeping in touch via email, texts or phone calls. Do something for others more so vulnerable groups, families and friends who might be quarantined or isolated at home
•Do not underestimate or overestimate children’s and adolescents understanding of events during this pandemic. Provide honest, clear, age-appropriate information about the disease and changes in the family
•Seek support if need be. Hoping that symptoms such as anxiety and depression will go away on their own might lead to severe symptoms
The impact of the current pandemic will be felt in several years to come to both children, adolescents and adult population. After experiencing various forms of traumatic incidences (one month to a year) most populations may manifest with Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD). This may include symptoms such as hyper-vigilance, trouble sleeping, avoidance behaviour (some might fear reporting back to work/school, going to hospitals or thinking about the pandemic or domestic/child abuse experienced during this period), trouble concentrating, invasive thoughts such as nightmares, flashbacks and upsetting memories. It will be important when normalcy return after this period we all be aware of these symptoms in our students, colleagues and family. Our way of life should be based on empathy, connection, seeking safety and trust in building resilience now and after the
pandemic. We all need to move from the fight-or-flight mode that most people are exhibiting at the moment as it causes more fear/anxiety. Let’s remain optimistic that we shall all come out of this pandemic strong in spite of the challenges. “Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition (such as lifting weights) we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity. “(Stephen Covey).