How do we cope in isolation and what can we do to support our Mental Health?

Author: Aranyo Ray

Novel Coronavirus, christened ‘COVID-19’ by the WHO, has caused widespread chaos in 192 countries, affecting billions of people whose lives are now on a standstill. About 398,107 people have been infected with 14,633 deaths worldwide reported by Johns Hopkins University. From Paris to New York, Madrid to Hoboken; some of the biggest cities across the globe are closing restaurants, theatres, schools and other non-essential services to help limit the spread of the coronavirus.

CDC guidelines posted on March 15 stated that all gatherings of 50 or more people are to be cancelled for the next eight weeks, to prevent the spread of the virus. Other countries such as the UK, are taking drastic measures as the spread continues to accelerate, restricting gatherings to only 2 people for the next three weeks.

With the global economy in a critical state, there’s another crisis at hand, perhaps a bigger one – Mental Health.

With schools and other services closing, millions of workers in all industries are facing unprecedented challenges, particularly financial but also in relationships. In particular, deciding who gets to live takes a huge toll on the healthcare workers as they are overworked. Children across the globe are struggling to deal with lost time in their education, but also face the repercussions of school closures that many children rely on for schools free meals, and a safe place to stay. Its quick spread has led to disruption of life as we know it.

A sudden crisis that has left little time to prepare for - is affecting everyone of us through trauma and loss - but has reminded us of our collective responsibility that will enable us to emerge stronger and resilient. What can we do to support each other at a time like this? A collective consciousness employing a social collective approach is needed. For a pandemic, the answer lies in virtual social and mental health chats. To name a few, organisations are releasing free online resources where you can find someone to talk to: 7 Cups, NAMI CRISIS Helpline and other resources such as the NHS, BetterHealth, and YourStory. Social media platforms such as Youtube, Instagram and Twitter, have also become platforms of support for those struggling with the quarantine.

Isolation fatigue is a real phenomenon that many will be dealing with as most of us aren’t used to staying at home for extended periods of time. However, being quarantined at home does not mean keeping your life on pause. The best way to aid your mental health is to find some ways to utilize the time. Try out new activities, practice hobbies, bond with close ones and most importantly, reconnect with yourself. If you feel overwhelmed by the endless stream of information, practice social media distancing, Unplugging for a few hours everyday can lessen the fear of missing out and ‘Coronavirus anxiety’ one may suffer with. It is crucial to keep your mental health strong and sometimes digital detoxing is crucial to do it.

Social distancing could  do more harm than good if we let it take a toll on our mental health while preventing the spread of coronavirus. As uncertainty and fear loom over our heads, here are effective ways to cope during these trying times:

  • Moderate news intake: Unknown to most, the news acts as a huge stressor during pandemics. Limit news and stick to official advisories and information - the WHO, CDC and local government bodies. Often, sensationalised news play their part in presenting partial truths, which amounts to misinformation and rumours. It is important to be media literate and trust only authentic sources.
  • Avoid panic buying and unnecessary hoarding: Remind yourself that the pandemic will end soon and you will not be stuck at home forever. Panic buying only leads to more stress for both you and people who truly need the resources. Hoarding can cause a strain on both your mental health and on relationships around you. Buy what you need and keep calm.
  • Prioritize emotional wellbeing: It is important to recognise and label your emotions. Acknowledge instead of acting out. Although the lockdowns mean you may not be able to celebrate events or go out to enjoy the sun, try to find methods that can replace these such as using your roof or garden for exercise, Skyping your friends or joining livestreams and Netflix parties. However, don't let the missed events stress you out.
  • Spend time with and comfort close ones, let them know you are there: For most of us, it’s our family. Utilize this time to lay aside differences and bond over commonalities. It does not mean spending ‘quality time’; rather, it is being there for your near ones, in solidarity and support.
  • Try out a new indoor activity: The possibilities are endless. Keep yourself active and involved to avoid laziness and unintended sorrow. Invest in yourself now that you have the opportunity.
  • Utilize social media for good: Spread positivity and hope, not negativity. And above all, remain calm and alert.

Social responsibility can help build support systems, but it needs to be done together. Mental health must always be a top priority for both you and your community.

Stay safe and stay positive.

Helplines:


References:

  1. "Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)". 2020. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html.
  2. "COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker – Updated As Of March 24, 2020". 2020. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. https://www.kff.org/global-health-policy/fact-sheet/coronavirus-tracker/.
  3. "Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Map". 2020. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html.
  4. "Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) - Get Your Mass Gatherings Or Large Community Events Ready For Coronavirus Disease 2019". 2020. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/large-events/mass-gatherings-ready-for-covid-19.html.