The COVID-19 outbreak has profoundly disrupted our normal routines and lifestyles and the majority of people are feeling understandably confused, frightened and stressed. Feelings of unease and worry can be expected during such a stressful crisis but it’s important to take care of our mental health and manage the stress before it turns into severe panic and anxiety.
A mental health researcher at the Queensland University of Technology, Olivia Fisher said that all the chaos and stress is completely normal as we are human and the majority of the people have not dealt with something serious like this pandemic before. She said that if anyone is feeling anxious or overwhelmed, then there is a need for seeking some support.
We all behave in different ways of dealing with anxiety or stress-related to COVID-19. Some people have distracted themselves and switched off from what’s going around while others are seeking constant reassurance from family or friends and obsessively checking the news updates.
According to Reach Out, symptoms of stress include a lack of motivation, mood swings, headaches, muscle aches, irritability, insomnia and restlessness.
A clinical psychologist Michael Kyrios said that our response to such stressful situations depends mainly on our personalities and personal circumstances. Humans are pre-programmed to keep estimating how likely something negative is going to happen and how severe its impact is going to be. People who lack trust and uncertain of themselves are going to be prone to overthinking and overestimating the severity of danger.
Professor Kyrios said that some concerns and anxiety was warranted especially if it forced people to take some extra precautions with physical distancing and personal hygiene. People who have anxiety disorders or obsessive compulsory disorder might experience panic attacks. Everyone differs in their tolerance for uncertainty, need for control and ability to be resilient.
Majority of the people are already feeling burden and their mental health is affected by the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic and preventive measures like social distancing that seek to contain it.
People with existing mental illnesses are especially at risk of distress and also those who are socially isolated because of disability, age or the fact they live alone. The impacts of the coronavirus crisis were likely to be even more widespread as many people are facing financial insecurity and unemployment.
Beyond Blue has given the tips for taking care of mental health and well being during home isolation and they are relevant for the majority of us who are physically distancing:
- Remember that your efforts are helping other people in the community
- Remember that it is a temporary period of isolation
- Eat healthy food and maintain your sleep routines
- Keep yourself involved in physical activity
- Stay in touch with your family, friends and colleagues via social media, phone or email
- Avoid social media and news if you get distressed
- For people who are working from home, maintain a healthy balance by setting specific work hour and taking breaks.
It’s important to develop and adopt new ways to cope with stress instead of the strategies we normally use to manage mental health. Research reveals positive social support improves the capacity for coping with stress.
Dr Fisher said that switching off the media isn’t a realistic expectation for most of the people particularly in the crisis of COVID-19. She said that it is important to keep sticking to trusted sources like the World Health Organization and minimizing the rest.
It is a message given by the WHO, recommending people to minimize watching, listening and reading to the news that makes them distressed or anxious, and seek information at specific times during the day once or twice.