Being forced to hunker down in our homes, limit trips and social distance for an indefinite time has taken a toll on our mental health. Aside from the general worry of physical health, deteriorating mental health in COVID-19 lockdown is fast becoming another rising pandemic. Things have taken a completely new turn so fast that we are still reeling from the impact. Many organizations, including WHO, have put forth coping strategies and guidelines to combat mental health issues during COVID-19 lockdown, and for good reason – various cases of depression have risen since the world locked itself down last year.
How COVID-19 affect mental health?
It isn’t surprising to see people drowning in depression, anxiety and fear, as we come across some dreadful news at least once a week. Humans are unaccustomed to socially isolating themselves. Apart from this forced separation from humans, other factors are triggering poor mental health in the COVID-19 lockdown. Some of these include bereavement, loss of income, unemployment, and constant fear of the unknown.
To battle with such overwhelming feelings, many are facing increased inclination towards alcohol, drug abuse, and suffering insomnia. There also has been a notable hike in screen-time that is leading to loss of self-care and an increase in violent behavior. Collectively, as per WHO’s Director-General, the pandemic has interrupted essential mental health services just when they are needed most.
Therefore, to battle the stress of the pandemic, including adverse effects of social distancing – a deeply unnatural practice for humans – we only have shared experiences to trust. Find below some tried-and-tested, proven tactics to keep yourself calm and save your mental health during COVID-19 lockdown.
Tips for maintaining mental health in COVID-19 lockdown
Begin with acceptance
The major reason why most of us are facing mental health issues during the COVID-19 lockdown is that we haven’t accepted the new norm. Start with acceptance; recognizing that your anxiety is completely normal. If school closures and news of deaths make you anxious, know that you are not alone. In fact, how you are feeling is completely normal, according to psychologists.
Feeling anxious makes you alert to threats and stimulates you to take measures to protect yourself. It is through anxiety that you will remember to wash your hands and keep your distance, in turn helping you maintain physical health. Come to think of it, this anxiety is also keeping the entire community safe. Therefore, feeling anxious in this environment is nothing abnormal. If it starts to take a toll on your daily routine, proceed to tip #2.
Find a routine
Granted, we had had our normal routines ruthlessly attacked since the start of the pandemic. But until the situation changes, you have to alter your routine, streamlined with the new norm. You know that many schools are closed, and work-from-home is here to stay. Develop a routine around that framework to build resilience. According to a professor of psychology at Adelphi University, to build resilience during traumatic events, you have to have a routine. This should consist of eating meals at regular times, washing, sleeping, exercising, reading, and maintaining (socially distant) contact.
Having all the time to yourself without any focus on what to do first can create boredom, trigger depression, and lead to unhealthy patterns of coping. Therefore, to maintain proper mental health during COVID-19 lockdown, it is essential to keep yourself distracted with a structured routine.
Stay connected with the right people
As noted earlier, humans are fundamentally social creatures. Social connectivity is the greatest determinant of well-being and one of the most basic psychological needs. Unfortunately, our connectivity has been greatly altered by COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely disconnect. Tend to your urge of wanting to feel gathered during this crisis by video-conferencing, talking on the phone, or meeting at a safe distance. Social media connectivity is fine but add in the touch of face-to-face talking to feel much better.
Any friend, family or associate who is stirring up negativity in your life is better left out. Be mindful about keeping positivity in your life.
Go for forest-bathing
As opposed to sun-bathing, which also makes you feel better, forest-bathing is many times better than a day at the beach. There is plenty of research that finds that connecting with nature is massively beneficial for both your physical and mental health. It has proven to reduce the risk of anxiety and depression to a large extent.
Another meta-analysis found that people who spend time forest-bathing enormously reduce their risk to multiple physical health conditions as well. These included coronary heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and risk of type 2 diabetes. Plus, levels of cortisol, lower heart rate, and all-cause mortality. Tough to believe? You can run lab tests at YourHealthLab to see it for yourself.
Scientists have found that all of this is enabled due to a strengthened immune system. Chemicals known as phytoncides from the trees trigger the faster activity of immune cells, known as natural killer cells.
Do yourself and others a service
Nothing makes humans happier than being of service to others. The most important tip for maintaining your mental health during COVID-19 lockdown is being kind to yourself and others. Stop beating yourself up when things go awry. It’s natural for people you live with to become annoyed. Don’t take it too hard. Be kind, stick to your schedule, focus on the happier things, and find ways to be productive. As they say, ‘this too shall pass’.