Tips for Handling Depression, Anxiety and Stress During COVID-19
Two years into this pandemic and we’re all still facing uncertain times. Most people have endured massive upheavals in their lives, whether you contracted COVID-19 yourself, your loved ones have suffered from or succumbed to it, or you’ve been forced to isolate yourself at home for extended periods of time. People have had to learn to deal with disrupted daily routines, financial pressures, social isolation, and pervasive uncertainty, all of which can cause our mental and emotional well-being to teeter.
If you’re living with depression, anxiety, and stress during COVID-19, it’s important to take steps to lessen their impact through a healthy routine. This can include regular exercise, a balanced diet, setting and pursuing goals, taking up hobbies, spending time outdoors, and staying connected to others.
A recent survey from the World Health Organisation showed,
…the devastating impact of COVID-19 on access to mental health services and underscores the urgent need for increased funding. While seeking medical treatment for mental health concerns is a priority, there are also things you can do on your own or with the help of loved ones to decrease the burden of your mental health issues.
What are the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Mental Health?
The pandemic has caused many people to be concerned about themselves or a loved one getting sick, where their next paycheck will come from, what the future holds, how to go out in public, find trusted information, or get vaccinated safely. These are all perfectly understandable concerns and fully expected in these circumstances. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone and that other people are probably going through very similar if not the same things as you. This is true both locally, as well as across the globe, where people report heightened symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and loneliness at varying stages throughout the pandemic.
An additional concern that has arisen due to the pandemic is the general neglect of preventive healthcare or even health maintenance activities such as regular check-ups, other vaccinations, and procedures that are due. When people have experienced illnesses, it’s not uncommon for them to fear seeking medical services for fear of contracting COVID-19. Meanwhile, if their health declines, this will place a further burden on their mental well-being as well.
We have heard time and time again that those with compromised immune systems are more vulnerable to the virus and this includes the state of our mental health. Stress and anxiety, especially if endured for long periods of time, can have a profound impact on our immune system and as Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation quite rightly says,
Good mental health is absolutely fundamental to overall health and well-being.
What Can I Do To Cope With the Effects of COVID-19 Quarantine?
It’s so important to look after yourself and your loved ones during these difficult times. Learning self care strategies to take care of your body and mind can help you take back control of your life and increase your happiness.
Your physical health is integral to your mental health!
Getting enough sleep – keep regular sleeping routines with good sleep hygiene (reduced screen time and caffeine) and a good night’s rest which will help your body to rest and recharge.
Exercise – regular physical exercise which causes a rise in your heart rate can improve your mood and reduce anxiety. There are many different ways to exercise to suit your preferences. Consider dance, running, yoga, water sports, or walking in nature. Apps for your phone can also help give you ideas and track your activities.
Eat healthy – a balanced diet helps to give you all the nutrients you need to keep your brain and mind as healthy as they can be, reducing anxiety and improving your mood.
Avoid tobacco, alcohol and unprescribed drugs – smoking tobacco or vaping creates a higher risk for respiratory infections such as COVID and alcohol and drugs can weaken your immune system and considerably alter your mood.
Limit screen time – Make a conscious effort to limit your screen time and turn off devices at least an hour before bed. Also, avoid reading or watching too much
Taking care of your mind is just as important as your body!
Time for you – let yourself recharge by setting aside time to do things that make you feel better. Take time to relax whether it be in a bath, meditating, listening to music, doing yoga or tai chi, or reading a book. Whatever works for you, try to practice it regularly.
Keep a routine – maintaining a regular routine helps you feel more in control. By maintaining consistent meal times, work and study schedules, exercise, and even making sure you bathe and get dressed every morning all contribute to your mental health.
Stay busy – find healthy hobbies that you can do from home like reading a book, crafting, painting, playing games, redecorating, decluttering, or cooking which can help distract you from negative thoughts that can lead to depression and anxiety.
Set achievable goals – make a list each day of achievable goals you can reasonably do and outline steps to get you there. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by setting unachievable tasks and give yourself credit every step of the way.
Limit news exposure – Excessively watching news stories, whether on the TV, online, social media, or newspapers, can exacerbate anxiety and fear. Limit your time on news sites and only read from reliable sources. Misinformation spreads faster than facts due to the fear they choose to spread.
Connect with and support others and strengthen relationships!
Virtual socialising – find ways to connect to others through different means. Send texts, emails and messages, or call or video chat with friends, family members, or colleagues regularly. Endorphins in your brain increase when we spend time with those we love, even if it’s only virtually.
Help others – helping others is a great way to help ourselves and it helps us find purpose. Check in on those less fortunate or the older community, ask if there’s anything that they need if they’re unable to leave the house or just offer some virtual company. These can make a difference to their mood and yours.
How Long Should I Exercise in Self-Quarantine?
If you’re self isolating, living, working, sleeping or studying in the same place, it’s more important than ever to take active breaks and get some exercise in. When we’re usually out and about getting ourselves to and from work, meetings, lunch dates, or errands, most of us are able to incorporate exercise routines into our hectic daily lives on top of all the other movements we’re doing.
It’s easy to become stagnant while we’re self isolating and forget that our bodies are more used to movement and some form of exercise. We have to be more mindful and motivated to ensure our mind and body are getting the physical activity they need.
For adults, the WHO recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week such as walking or light yoga, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise such as running or cycling. You could also incorporate a combination of both high intensity and moderate intensity exercises on different days. The recommendation is for those who have no other medical guidance, which may differ if someone has a pre-existing health condition or other limiting factors.