By Dr Raveesh BN
Professor & Head, Dept of Psychiatry, Mysore Medical College & Research Institute, Mysore
As the covid pandemic rapidly sweeping across the world, it is considerably inducing stress, fear, worry and concern in the population at large and among certain groups who are vulnerable, such as elders, children, care providers and people with co-morbid health conditions.
A pandemic is not just a medical phenomenon; it affects individuals and society. The behaviour of an individual as a unit of society has marked effects on the dynamics of a pandemic that involves the level of severity, flow, and after-effects.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, people may experience stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness. And mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, can worsen. Also, people may worry about getting sick, quarantine, stigmatization.
How long the pandemic will last? Whether they lose the job? And what the future will bring.? Information overload with rumours and misinformation can make life feel out of control and make it unclear what to do. Researchers have found insomnia as one of the common complaints during COVID.
People with substance use disorders, notably those addicted to tobacco or opioids, are likely to have worse outcomes if they get COVID-19. That’s because these addictions can harm lung function and weaken the immune system, causing chronic conditions such as heart disease and lung disease, which increase the risk of serious complications from COVID-19.
Some people have increased their use of alcohol or drugs, thinking that can help them cope with their fears about the pandemic. In reality, using these substances can worsen anxiety and depression. Sometimes ending with suicide.
Public awareness campaigns focusing on the maintenance of mental health in the prevailing situation in a highly populated country like ours is needed. Be mindful of your physical health. Mental health is essential for complete health. Some tips to improve overall health during COVID and otherwise.
TO IMPROVE PHYSICAL HEALTH
Get enough sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same times each day. Stick close to your typical schedule, even if you’re staying at home.
Take part in regular physical activity. Regular physical activity and exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood. Find an activity that includes movement, such as dance or exercise.
Eat healthy food. Choose a well-balanced diet. Avoid loading up on junk food and refined sugar. Limit caffeine, as it can aggravate stress and anxiety.
Limit screen time. Turn off electronic devices for some time each day, including 30 minutes before bedtime. Attempt to spend less time in front of a screen, i.e., television, tablet, computer and smartphone.
REDUCE STRESS TRIGGERS
Keep your routine. Maintaining a regular schedule is important to your mental health. Besides sticking to a regular bedtime routine, keep consistent times for meals, bathing and getting dressed, work or study schedules, and exercise.
Limit exposure to news media. Constant news about COVID-19 from all types of media can heighten fears about the disease. Limit social media that may expose you to rumours and false information. Also limit reading, hearing or watching other news, but keep up to date on national and local recommendations. Look for reliable sources, government agencies and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Stay busy. A distraction can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression. Enjoy hobbies you can do at home, identify a new project or clean out that closet you promised you’d get to. Doing something positive to manage anxiety is a healthy coping strategy.
Use your moral compass or spiritual life for support. If you draw strength from a belief system, it can bring you comfort during tough times. Yoga, meditation and prayers will help to remain positive.
Set priorities. Don’t become overwhelmed by creating a life-changing list of things to achieve while you’re home. Set reasonable goals each day and outline steps you can take to reach those goals. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small. And recognize that some days will be better than others.
BUILD SOCIAL SUPPORT AND STRENGTHEN RELATIONSHIPS
Make connections. If you need to stay at home and distance yourself from others, avoid social isolation. Find time each day to make virtual connections by email, texts, phone, or FaceTime or similar apps. Enjoy virtual socializing and talking to those in your home.
Do something for others. Find purpose in helping the people surrounding you. For example, email, text or call to check on your friends, family members and neighbours especially those who are elderly. If you know someone who can’t get out, ask if there’s something needed, such as groceries or a prescription picked up, for instance. But be sure to follow government recommendations all the time.
[Courtesy: World Health Organisation & Mayo Clinic, COVID 19 and Mental Health]