The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has sparked a series of worldwide lockdowns on an unprecedented scale. And this sudden paradigm shift has altered many lives in terms of leisure, livelihood and social interaction. In this article, we’ll be discussing the impact of living in relative isolation and uncertainty towards mental health, as well as the steps we can take to mitigate the effect.
As a social species, travel restrictions, social distancing and lockdowns can arguably be the most unnatural guidelines we’ve been introduced to. While the human brain has built-in coping mechanisms, the sheer scale, in terms of enforcement and duration, of these safety precautions can be mentally exhausting.
What is the Psychological Impact of Lockdowns?
An earlier report from 2020 revealed that we’d reached a point where one-third of the entire human population was in some form of restrictive measure—that’s more humans in lockdown than were even alive during the second world war.
From a qualitative perspective, there have been more psychological consequences, mainly anxiety and depression, due to lockdown restrictions. This study from the UK highlighted the most prominent factors contributing to mental distress caused by lockdowns:
- Worries about School and Education
- Worries about the Future
- Lack of Mental Support for Younger Age Groups
- Worries about Financial Security
Loneliness aside, we can observe that a significant contributor to mental distress is uncertainty. And because modern society has hardwired our brains into believing that we are often in control, we experience dissonance towards our capacity for self-determination when placed in an environment of uncertainty. With uncertainty comes anxiety—and if not addressed promptly, anxiety can be a risk factor for subsequent depression.
Quantitative figures from the US show that the average share of adults reporting symptoms of Anxiety Disorder and Depressive Disorder jumped from 11% to 41% from January 2019 to January 2021. The same report also pointed out that numerous adults showed an increase in difficulty in sleeping, loss of appetite and increase in alcohol consumption and substance abuse.
As the pandemic fatigue sets in deeper, we can only expect this trend to continue further. But it’s a good thing that the global community is shedding light on the pandemic’s impact on mental health, as much as its effect on physical health and economic conditions.
What are Some Mental Health Tips During COVID-19?
As many people are still confined to their houses with limited real-life social interactions, we need to develop our resilience towards mental issues. Here are some actionable tips to keep us as mentally healthy as we can be during these times.
Try to Keep Everything Routine
This goes for both kids and adults. Having some semblance of a day-to-day routine can give us a sense of structure to overcome uncertainty. This doesn’t need to be complicated; from having your meals regularly to doing chores at a set time, it can give us much-needed composition in our day.
Continue Doing the Things that You Love
Provided that you don’t need to go out and break restriction rules, there’s no reason to give up on your hobbies and interests. The world outside might be changing, but you’re still the same you. Also, this is another opportunity to try out new things. Learning new skills can keep the brain from falling “stagnant.”
Exercise at Home
There is growing literature that proves how physical exercise can boost mental health as well as it does to our physical health. One study’s findings even suggest that physical activity and exercise are associated with a better quality of life in general.
Declutter your Space
The predictability of cleaning and organising offers a sense of control. When your surroundings are organised, your thoughts will follow. Your home’s supposed to be your sanctuary, especially during these times, and clutter-free space makes it easier for us to do the activities that we love.
Maintain Social Connections
We are somewhat lucky to have gone through a pandemic during this time. The availability of online interactions can help ease feelings of loneliness. While social media is helpful to some extent, direct conversations with friends and family, such as video conferencing or phone calls, will be better for meeting our psychological needs.
Try a Relaxation Technique
Whether your cup of tea is listening to music, meditation, or simply focusing on your breathing, taking the time to evaluate yourself while relaxed can help uplift your outlook.
Get Adequate Rest and Sleep
The correlation between adequate sleep and mental health has been the subject of numerous studies. Here are some detailed tips to improve your sleep: Tips to Improve Your Sleep To Help Your Mental Health | CFHP
Manage your News Consumption
While it’s essential to stay updated with current events, it’s better to avoid news that doesn’t give you new information. The repeated messages, especially the negative ones, can affect one’s viewpoint.
Keep a “Feelings Journal”
This activity can serve both as an outlet for negative emotions and reinforcement for positive ones. At first, it might feel strange to write down your emotional triggers and comforters, but we can begin to manage them better as soon as we acknowledge how we feel. Keep in mind that we are in control of our emotions most of the time, and during the times that we think that we are not, we are still in control of how we react to them.
Seek Professional Help
Mental health support and counselling are essential services and will continue to be available for everyone. We also acknowledge that some people may feel a bit of apprehension towards face-to-face therapies during this time. This is why CFHP offers online options for depression counselling, stress management and anxiety counselling.
Bonnie Ingram is a registered psychologist with significant experience in addressing anxiety, depression, stress management and life adjustments and transitions.
Bonnie uses a Motivational Interviewing approach to help the client make their own decisions and experience full autonomy.
Bonnie uses a variety of evidence-based therapies, including CBT, ACT, Schema-based therapy and psycho-education. Her approach to therapy is adaptive and flexible. She is warm, respectful, and compassionate and enjoys building a collaborative therapeutic relationship with her clients.