The corona virus (COVID-19) global pandemic has plunged the whole world into uncertainty and ambiguity and the continuous news about the corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic can feel harsh and relentless. We all are trying to adjust in new uncertainties and grieving the loss of our love once. Now a days during this pandemic we all are trying to manage our lives, our daily routines, our love once health and trying to balance financial stressors. All of this adjusting trials taking its toll on people mental health. All stressors related to corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic may cause several psychological problems like anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder, excessive worry, feeling of helplessness, sleep problems and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Particularly those who pre-existing experiencing mental health or psychological problems. These situations create fear in people, fear of losing job, fear of financial crisis, fear of losing love one , fear of being alone, fear of get affected by the virus, fear of running out of food, uncertainty about future. These fears and collective trauma that we are experiencing during corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic may feel depressing. But this pandemic is not the first crisis that we are facing in history. Many researches shows that we experiencing many crisis like 9-11, Ebola virus disease and SARS but in all crisis people respond differently some respond in adaptive ways and others respond in maladaptive ways.
Researches shows that the isolation and social distancing effect the mental health of the people and after this pandemic people will try to continue to engage in avoidance behavior. “A study of people quarantined during the time of the SARS outbreak because of potential contact noted that 54 per cent (524 of 1057) of people who had been quarantined avoided people who were coughing or sneezing, 26 per cent (255) avoided crowded enclosed places, and 21 per cent (204) avoided all public spaces in the weeks following the quarantine period. A qualitative study in the same review reported that several participants described long-term behavioral changes after the quarantine period, such as vigilant hand washing and avoidance of crowds and, for some, the return to normality was delayed by many months, it added.”
Many other researches was conducted to show how the mentally strong people act in critical situations and this evidences from the previous studies help us to reduce the mental health disorders or psychological problems resulting from corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic. We are in the middle of this crisis but if try to manage our lives in a better way we will be well adjusted physically, mentally and spiritually when the pandemic ends.
Many of us know that basics rules to lead a healthy life, like proper diet, walk, 8 hour sleep, good interpersonal connections. However following are some recommendations based on previous researches that how we can increase our mental health during corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic. These following recommendation help us not only mange our lives but reduces the chances of mental health problems and psychological disorders caused by corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic.
1: less focus on news and media exposure:
Previous researches recommend that there are two main ways person respond in crisis situation. First is vulnerability, like a person is vulnerable in his life before the pandemic (crisis). Second is news consumptions, quantity of new person watch or listen during the pandemic. Continue exposure of chronic news increase mental health problems.
24/7 cycle of media exposure can increase the sensitivity of danger that activate the fight and flight response which can lead the mental health problems. Researches demonstrated that pervious natural disaster and crisis like pandemic increased the mental stress and psychological issues due to the daily exposure of the news and media about crisis in contrast those people who avoid and less emphasis on the news and media exposure about pandemic was psychologically less affected by distressful pandemic news. If people want to increase their mental health during pandemic they have to choose the reliable and less distressing media and should limit their media exposure.
2: Your feelings are normal, accept it:
Most of the time we respond to the crisis either personal or collective with many feelings, like anger, anxiety, depression, feeling of worthlessness, self-doubt sometime we show tantrum at those closest to us, we become moody. These all pressure show up as loss of appetite, loss of interest in activities, restlessness. But mentally strong individuals perceive these feelings as normal because they know that crisis situations and stressors cause these disruptive feelings. To become a mentally strong individual we should perceive these all depressing situation as normal and identify the reason why we feel this way because in every panic situation people feel the same way. Because every psychological disorders required a specific criteria to diagnose with or without any pandemic or crisis, identify.
3: Choose leader carefully:
Those people who take care of their mental health follow those leaders who shows the good and healthy leadership skills. Who stated the truth and talk with the facts. A leader who make some strategies to help his nation. Because news and media induce the stress about the current pandemic. It is unhealthy and psychologically affected if people follow those who openly discuss and misstate the fact about the corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic.
4: avoid social media:
Social media like Facebook and other unofficial YouTube and news channels deliver the news that most of the people want to listen, sometime they misstate the facts this rises bias and the tendency to start rumors that increase distress. But in contrast mentally strong people limit the media exposure because they know and understand that excessive use of media increases the distress. “Keith Hampton, a professor in the department of media and information at Michigan State University in East Lansing, said social media amplifies stress by giving us an individual connection to people facing bad news directly.”
5: Display Self Compassion:
During the days of corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic, in the quarantine the social pressure of be productive is increased. People perceive themselves worthless and nonproductive. During this pandemic we should understand that the poor concentration, inability to think productively and overwhelming feelings are common and natural. If we talked about the “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” his model describe to achieve the self-actualization we should fulfill the initial four stages of hierarchy (physiological, safety, love and belongingness and esteem). But during this pandemic we all are basically but temporarily at the initial two level of hierarchy. When our initial two needs physiological and safety need are in danger during corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic. We do not push ourselves to be productive and achiever.
6: Focus on realities and facts:
People who are mentally strong aware of their real nature and cause of emotions and able to, manage their negative emotions. There are many psychological techniques to manage our emotions but one of the therapy called the dialectic behavior therapy created by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D talked about that an individual has three state of mind. 1: emotional mind where emotions rule, 2: rational mind which is based on the rational thinking and logic and the 3: is wise mind which is a bridge between emotional and rational mind. During this crisis most of the people use emotional mind and start panic but if we deliberately use the rational mind during this pandemic and give the logic with evidence to our brain can decrease excessive negative states For example, if an individual is using fortunetelling that “he is going to catch COVID-19 and die, a rational mind focus on the statistics and the evidence of lesser amount of people affected from COVID-19. Other rational statement are “I have a little chances of catching the disease because I am following precautionary measures.
The meditation and relaxation exercise reduce the stress, anxiety, feeling of sadness and increase the peace of mind, physical, emotional and psychological heath of an individual.
8: Avoid Toxic People:
To increase the mental health avoid the interaction with toxic people because their behavior such as lying, self-center, demanding and manipulating personalities, negative talks and feed backs affect our mental health. If you are able to deal with toxic people like friends, family members and colleagues during non-pandemic time but during these days and crisis when everybody is trying to survive avoid the toxic people for your mental health.
9: self-care is important:
To survive during this corona virus pandemic we should take care of our mental health. The basic ingredients for increasing mental health is self-care. First important thing in self-care is eat healthy food and take 3 times meal in a day, do walk and exercise and third most important thing is take proper 7 to 8 hours sleep and try to make a good relationships with friends and family and try to avoid fights and arguments.
10: know personality needs:
To identify your personality need first of all you need to know your personality type. Because different personalities need different strategies and activities to cope with the stressful environment and crisis. Such as introvert personality type people are reserved and enjoy the company of few people subcontract extrovert people are outgoing and out spoken and enjoy others people company. So, both personalities have different needs to gain and enhance well being and mental health.
Written by MADIHA AZAM (Clinical Psychologist)
Thoughts: Dr. Sadaqat Ali