Mental Health in the Age of the Pandemic
If you have kept an eye on the news since the beginning of this year, you have likely stumbled upon a wide variety of unsettling stories. The year 2020 was not very gentle with us: first, there were drones and threats flying from the USA to the Middle East and back, we’ve seen bushfires devastate Australia, and we’ve seen a novel respiratory infection emerge in China that quickly became a pandemic.
What we’re seeing now is the icing on the cake – and it’s only June. When looking at what’s going on in the world at the moment, even the recent mass shooting in Canada seems to be a minor blip on the radar. All the bad news from around the world raining down on us on every channel is bound to have an effect on our mind – and not a positive one.
Stress growing exponentially
Even those who don’t think of the SARS-COV-2 virus as something dangerous are, on some level, afraid of being infected. The perspective of contracting a disease that currently has no cure, no vaccine, the perspective of being separated from loved ones and placed in isolation even if the suspicion of exposure emerges, is a major source of anxiety today. Add this to the possibility of long-term disruptions in our daily lives, the threat to our livelihood, and the negative effects the current events can have on the global – and, implicitly, the local – economy can stay with us in the long term.
All these are causing people to feel stress and anxiety that are growing exponentially.
The most vulnerable
While the stress caused by the current events is affecting everyone, there are certain categories of people that are especially vulnerable to its effects.
One of these categories is that of older adults, especially those with health conditions that cause cognitive decay, such as dementia. These people can become especially agitated, angry, stressed, and anxious during an outbreak that involves isolation – they already tend to be isolated, and the public health measures imposed by governments will only add fuel to the fire.
Children are also a vulnerable category. While at first, they may enjoy not having to go to school (in countries where the schools are closed), the long-term isolation imposed by the governments’ measures will start depressing them in time. They, too, will feel more stressed and anxious when seeing the events going on around them.
Coping is not easy – but it’s possible
The constant flux of bad news coming from every channel imaginable may make some feel overwhelmed – but coping with this situation is possible.
As a general rule, try to stay away from sensationalist media as much as possible. Taking a break from reading or watching the news – or even browsing social media – can help ease the tension.
Making time to unwind each day is another helpful practice in these trying times. If you schedule your relaxing time to include some exercise – even taking a walk outside helps – it’s even better, because exercise has been shown to help ease stress. And make sure to get enough sleep.
Finally, make sure you maintain a healthy lifestyle as much as possible. Eat balanced, nutritious meals, avoid drugs, alcohol, and smoking.
And make sure to spend time with your loved ones – in person, if possible, over the internet, if not – so you can talk to somebody about the way you feel.
Most importantly: make sure to only rely on legitimate information sources in these times – the internet is full of misinformation actively promoted on many channels.