Saying that “ COVID 19 has changed your life ” would be an understatement. There has been a considerable shift in the lifestyles of people of all age groups.
Work from home, schooling through zoom calls, relying on video calls to stay in touch with your family, temporary unemployment…
These are some of the transitions you might have gone through at a really fast pace.
Tips on how to overcome mental health issues
- Balance stress with a healthy diet
- Do not indulge in substance abuse
- Maintain a routine
- Consume positive content
- Discover new hobbies
- Seek help
The impact of COVID 19 on mental health has been felt at varying degrees. You would have felt uncertain about your future and even lonely at this time. It has led to mental health issues like anxiety and depression. While anxiety is a natural stress response, you might have experienced it personally or seen situations where it has spiralled out of control.
“ Mental health facts – A study examining suicidal behaviour during India’s COVID-19 lockdown by the International Journal of Mental Health Systems has found a 67.7% increase in online news media reports of suicidal behaviour. ”
You need people with whom you can share your problems, but self-isolation puts you in a place of no human contact. As a natural consequence, it pushes you to dwell in negative thoughts. In this blog, you will learn about some of the negative consequences of COVID 19 on mental health. The ways in which you can take care of yourself. How you can prepare for a better and healthier relationship with your body, mind, and thoughts.
Take care of your body
“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz
Balance stress with a healthy diet
The current COVID 19 situation induces high levels of stress. While dealing with this pressure, you resort to comfort foods, which are often high in sugar.
What you don’t realise is that their consumption is only a quick fix to deal with the stress. (Comfort food is NOT comfortable for your body).
In the long run, they in fact increase the anxiety levels. They even make you prone to serious mental health issues like depression. Going for a healthy diet will significantly help you in achieving emotional stability. Not only will it have a positive impact on how you feel, but it will also boost your body’s immune system.
Plan a diet that is rich in
- Vitamin C (citrus fruits, oranges, lemon),
- Magnesium ( pumpkin seeds, almond, spinach)
- and Zinc (baked beans, chickpeas, nuts)
It will also reduce your chance of getting infected. You can even make this fun by experimenting with different recipes with your family. For example, making a food plan and picking up a day in a week where you cook something new. And if you are not with your family, then over facetime or zoom, you can cook something together.
Do not indulge in substance abuse
One of the most negative impacts of COVID 19 on mental health has been an increase in substance abuse. Substance abuse can take multiple forms. In a lot of cases, it manifests in the form of excessive consumption of alcohol or tobacco. Sometimes the substance can be pain meds or high-calorie food. It can lead to serious and often irreversible consequences for your health. Especially, in the current circumstances where medical resources are scarce. It won’t even be possible to seek a timely medical check. In most cases, the trigger for abuse is often a result of your inability to manage stress. The focus here should be to find other things that help in a better way to let out stress, like engaging in physical activities.
You can add a 30-minute cardio workout to your routine. It will not even require any heavy gym setup. A mat, some motivational gym music, and you are good to start.
The other useful way can be to limit the access. For instance, don’t stock alcohol at your home. This will make it difficult for you to access it, and give you more control over your choices.
Maintain a routine
A routine essentially helps you in staying busy, consequently leaving less to no time for you to overthink. There are a couple of things that you can consider while building a routine to reduce the impact of COVID 19 on mental health.
- Fix your sleep hours – don’t surrender to mindless scrolling on Instagram
- Say goodbye to your phone an hour before bed
- Try writing down your thoughts in the form of a journal or any one thing you are grateful for
- Dim the lights an hour before to signal your brain its sleep time
- Add stressbusters to your routine like making time to talk to your friends and family
- Add alarms in your phone that remind you to drink water during your work hours
A planned day with a set of productive habits will help you stay calm in this stressful time.
Mind and mindfulness
“You either control your mind or it controls you.“ – Napoleon Hill
Consume positive content
Social media and news channels are active sources to get information and updates around the corona. But most times the news coverage is negative. It’s essential to stay updated but you don’t need to watch negative content on loop. In addition, not everything is genuine on the internet. You might be putting yourself in a state of panic for something that’s not even true. You can instead rely on more credible sources of information like UNICEF or WHO.
Secondly, limit your TV and social media time usage. You can use this time to watch light-hearted content or something positive. Binge on shows like the office, friends or other sitcoms to relax. You can even read books or listen to podcasts that recommend useful ways to develop a positive mindset.
Breathe in – Let the stress out
It is a well-known fact that meditation helps you to deal with stress. However, sitting cross-legged for hours is not the most interesting proposition for everyone. So, rather than starting with a full-blown 30 minutes session of meditation, start with a smaller duration. Like a minute in silence with yourself. You can also try different kinds of meditation like guided meditation, mindfulness or mantra practice. You can read about personality development and apply them to your daily life so as to help yourself cope with mental stress.
Guided meditation is a great way for beginners to start with. In this form of meditation, an external source i.e. a voice guides you through your meditative journey. There are a lot of apps like headspace, The Mindfulness App, Calm, Buddhify, Omvana, etc. for you to use for this purpose. Find a quiet place – Plugin your earphones – Play the audio – And let the voice be your guide. Doing this over a period of time will significantly reduce your stress and limit the effects of COVID 19 on mental health.
Remember the time when you wanted to learn to play that guitar but never had enough time to do it? You have it now. Learning something that you are interested in helps break the cycle of stress. When you devote time to learning something, it brings you into a state of flow. This state of mind significantly increases your level of happiness.
Also, don’t take the pressure to become a pro in the activities you pick up. Just do them because you like doing them. Write that piece of poetry, read a book, try gardening, knitting or even origami. The best thing that video calls have done for us is that you don’t have to do anything alone. Find a friend who has similar interests or join an online community. It is a lot more fun to learn when you share your progress with others.
“Human connections are deeply nurtured in the field of a shared story.” – Jean Houston
Call a friend
Life is a race and lockdown is like a speed breaker. If you try to drive too fast on a speed breaker, your engine feels stressed. And you don’t want to do that with your life. Speed breakers are actually a helpful thing if you really think about it.
This pause in your normal life can become quality time with your family. Play board games together, watch a show on Netflix, engage in meaningful conversations. Call that friend with whom you haven’t gotten time to catch up. Just talking to your loved ones can help you in reducing the effects of COVID 19 on mental health.
If you are having a hard time dealing with stress, do not shy away from seeking help from a therapist. While you might find your issues as this complicated web of thoughts, your therapist can help you in solving this web step by step. He/she will identify the key stressors, and work on them with you. Reach out to a mental health therapist, the sessions will give you meaningful insights to make your life simpler. In addition, you will understand better ways to cope with stress.
The Silver Lining
A solution to any problem only happens when it is acknowledged. The impact of COVID 19 on mental health has opened a dialogue. Mental health education is being discussed at a scale like never before. An open dialogue about it will build the ground in reducing the stigma around it.
This will significantly help people even after a pandemic to freely reach out for help. And while you are going through this time, be kind to yourself. Start with taking care of your body, and slowly you will see positive effects in all aspects of your life.