As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly sweeps across the world, it has induced a considerable degree of fear, worry, and concern. Of course, this largely affects certain groups in particular such as older adults, care providers, and people with underlying health conditions. In mental health terms, the main psychological impact to date is elevated rates of stress or anxiety.
The reality of a mental health crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic
As the government introduce new measures and impacts — especially quarantine and its effects on people’s activities, routines, and livelihood — levels of loneliness, depression, harmful substance abuse, self-harm, and even suicidal behavior will surely rise. People with developing or existing mental health conditions have become a major concern.
For some reason, the current mental health infrastructure in the Philippines may not be enough to support the amount of Filipinos who actually seek for help. Plus, the combination of stressors could have crippling effects. The country is already in a mental health crisis and it could go worse if people won’t learn about what they feel and why they feel it.
COVID-19 and its effects on one’s mental health
As of April 14, the Philippines almost has 5-thousand reported cases, leaving people anxious about their physical, mental, and economic health. A lot of people had already applied for unemployment due to the pandemic, and many more grow anxious and stresses with the possibility of job loss or underemployment. People currently reside at a tipping point.
Economic pressures. Health concerns. Social isolation. Those are just some of the underlying reasons why anxiety and depression spiked up during the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals have started to seek mental health care, increasing the amount of people who feels the need to.
Depression and anxiety have become defining features of our times. With isolation and uncertainty not helping us deal with the new realities of our new virtual lives under the incredible stress of unfamiliar circumstances. Stress may be normal and it can be healthy. However, too much sustained stress can lead to blood sugar imbalances, high blood pressure, and impaired immunity and inflammatory responses.
Apparently there is such a thing as COVID-19 Anxiety. According to experts, it refers to the prolonged time of heightened anxiety and even loss. Of course, this happens due to one’s overwhelming sense of uneasiness following the enhanced community quarantine implementation.
One would feel disappointed about lost opportunities, too. Their anxiety would heighten as more cities and countries went into lockdown and numbers of infected exponentially grew. People with no underlying mental health issues may feel overwhelmed during the pandemic and wonder why they feel heavy-hearted.
Feeling of loss.
Why? Because people find themselves out of their comfort zone. Some people are social beings and may not be accustomed to social distancing. Whether they realize it or not, they feel a loss from the sense of security and freedom that people usually take for granted to more tangible unemployment and financial losses.
COVID-19 has disrupted normalcy.
COVID-19 has disrupted normalcy. People are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air. Normal anxiety doesn’t paralyze a person but if it grows recurrent, overwhelming, causes mood changes, and even triggers physical trauma, it could cripple their sense of being. These physical trauma includes insomnia, indigestion, and body aches.
COVID-19 Anxiety can be ‘contagious’ to young children
Children also experience a lot of stress due to the abrupt end to their school year. Instead of dramas at school, they deal with issues with home learning. It is important to note that these kind of anxiety can be contagious and it can affect them in the long run. Parents can simulate the school routine with recess and lunch time in between home schooling. Play time could help, too. This would lessen the stress that they feel.
Habits for a good mental hygiene during the pandemic
One’s mental health greatly affects their physical health. There may be challenges at hand but we have to pull it all together. Here are a few ways how to embrace this new (and hopefully, temporary) normal:
Consider how to connect with others
Video calls with friends and family can help beat isolation.
Talk about your worries
Remember that this is a difficult time for everyone and sharing how you are feeling and the things your are doing to cope with family and friends can help them too.
Look after your physical wellbeing
Eat healthy, drink enough water, exercise indoors, etc.
Look after your sleep schedule
Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep good sleep hygiene practices. Avoid screens before bed, cut back on caffeine and create a restful environment.
Manage your media and information intake
24-hour news and constant social media updates can make you more worried. Check the news at certain times and limit yourself to a couple of checks per day.
Get the facts
Gather high quality information to help you accurately determine your own risk of contracting COVID-19.
Think about your new daily routine
Look for ways to adapt and create positive new routines. Engage in useful (cleaning, cooking, exercise) and meaningful (reading or calling a friend) activities. Do the things you enjoy in the comfort of your own home.
Achieving them will give you a sense of control and purpose.
Most importantly, take a time to relax and focus on the present.
Angela Grace P. Baltan is a Communication graduate from Colegio de San Juan de Letran. She doesn’t hesitate to be opinionated in analyzing movies and television series. As a writer, she uses her articles to advocate for feminism, gender equality, and mental health among others.