Dealing With Mental Health Issues Brought on by COVID-19
Holiday gatherings over the next couple of weeks will look a lot different than normal in many homes.
It may be business as usual for some families. But a majority will put protocols in place to try to cut down the risk of the coronavirus spreading.
Many gatherings will be smaller than usual. With some of the more elderly family members sitting this one out.
In some households, hugs will be kept to a minimum. Social distancing will be practiced. Masks will be worn by some and hand-washing will be prevalent. The ideal centerpiece on holiday tables might be a disinfecting wipes container.
Distancing and Restrictions Weigh Heavily
Even those who have been fortunate enough to avoid the coronavirus infection have been affected mentally. Stress, anxiety, insomnia and loneliness have been impossible to avoid.
We all probably know loved ones, neighbors, co-workers or friends who have suffered from the virus. Our hearts go out to them.
Some of us have lost employment due to the virus. Or our places of work have suffered. We’ve been unable to go places we’d like to go. This could get worse before it gets better. Especially as lockdowns are enacted in some places.
Many of us have been unable to connect as closely as we’d like with family members and friends. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rising. Some have become frightened about what the future holds.
Normal Mental Health Boosts Are Missing
All of these things make it much harder on our mental and emotional state. During normal times, we receive mental health boosts. Without even thinking about it.
For example, we get an emotional lift from meeting new people. Or having a chance encounter with a friend.
We experience a sense of awe from visiting a beautiful place. We get recharged from a night out with colleagues.
We come out of a theater with a warm glow after sharing a common experience with a loved one. We think about how great that next family vacation is going to be.
But these are not normal times. And with cold weather setting in, isolation for many of us will worsen.
Quarantining During Holidays?
Quarantining has long been the first line of defense against the spread of disease. The word “quarantine” comes from the Italian words, “quaranta giorni.” They mean “40 days.”
Diseases societies have attempted to halt with this method include the plague, cholera and influenza. Plus, more recently, SARS and MERS.
State and local governments are currently struggling with lockdown decisions. They are trying to halt the spread of the coronavirus without further damaging a fragile economy.
Some officials are strongly encouraging citizens to avoid Christmas and Hanukkah gatherings. They recommend using video communication options this year. So that we can all gather safely next year.
Among those fighting against restrictions are the owners of businesses. Including gyms, hair salons, restaurants and many others.
Negative Effects of Isolation
Quarantining may slow down the number of positive tests, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus. But the longer a quarantine continues, the more it negatively affects people. Mentally, emotionally and financially.
A recent study shows psychological effects resulting from quarantining. They include feelings of the loss of freedom. Plus separation from family and friends, and fear of disease. As well as frustration and boredom.
These factors can make people irritable, stressed out and angry. Not to mention anxiety-ridden and emotionally exhausted.
Some people choose to cope with their stress by turning to alcohol and drugs.
Positive Ways to Cope
Fortunately there are much better methods for handling the situation. Here are six evidence-backed ways to look after our mental health during this trying time. They are from psychologist Carol Ryff:
- Explore purpose and meaning. Dedicate time to think about and discuss what gives your life meaning. What is most important in your life?
- Retain your autonomy. Find ways to live according to your principles despite your movements being restricted. Don’t just wait it out. Take control of how you spend your time.
- Experience personal growth. Try to learn something new and achieve your health goals. Set small, achievable goals rather than large, unrealistic ones.
- Manage your life well. Don’t get complacent. Create a schedule that includes a good balance of leisure, work, learning and physical activities.
- Invest in positive relationships. You can do this through email, social media, phone calls or video chats. If you can safely volunteer, take advantage of that opportunity to help others.
- Learn about yourself. Identify your strengths and take time to appreciate them. Consider ways to use those strengths now. And in an even broader fashion once the pandemic is over.
Of all the tips listed above, the one I like best is, “Don’t just wait it out.” Instead, let’s turn a negative into a positive by bettering ourselves. If we do, we’ll come out on the other side stronger than we were.