The outbreak of COVID-19 and its subsequent declaration as a pandemic by the World Health Organization created a sense of widespread fear among people of all the nations of the world. To curb and prevent its further spread, governments around the globe introduced many precautionary measures such as social distancing and partial or total lockdowns.
While these practices and measures were implemented for public health and safety, they have caused many disruptions in our day-to-day lives.
Not being able to venture out and staying confined to our homes, our mental and physical health has taken quite a hit. Moreover, with a cloud of uncertainty about job security and personal safety, stress levels have also increased significantly.
How social isolation affects mental health
Humans are social beings. Our psychological systems have evolved to thrive and survive in collaborative networks of people.
However, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, social distancing has become the norm at the moment. Nationwide lockdowns have been imposed in many countries, which have resulted in social isolation. Also, in states where lockdowns have not been imposed, people have been advised to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet among each other in public places.
Following suit, employers worldwide have also adopted work-from-home policies to ensure their business operations keep running smoothly.
Though the practices mentioned above are the only way to go about with our lives at the moment, they can take a severe toll on our overall wellbeing. Not interacting socially with each other can cause loneliness, depression, and many other mental health problems.
Furthermore, for people suffering from depression and loneliness before the outbreak of COVID-19, the battle has become tougher now.
Staying mentally healthy in the time of a pandemic
As mentioned above, the ongoing pandemic and the subsequent isolation it has caused can significantly affect our mental health. Hence, we must take all the steps to stay sane and keep our minds healthy amid these uncertain times.
Here are some tips to ensure optimal mental health in a time when loneliness and mental health problems loom large -
Regular physical exercise is known far and wide for its stress-relieving properties. It helps remove toxins from the body, releases endorphins in our bloodstream, and decreases cortisol levels, also known as the stress hormone.
Also, staying confined to our homes has decreased the amount of physical activity we get daily. So, take out time every day to do some exercise to reap its benefits and stay healthy. It can be a great way to combat any built-up stress and anxiety.
The coronavirus pandemic has also disrupted our food chain, causing food shortages across the world. Also, it has changed the way we approach food, making us more conscious of our food choices.
We all know how important proper nutrition is for our physical health. It is beneficial to our mental health as well. Eating the right foods can help improve our brain health and keep mental health problems at bay.
Meditation has been laid stress upon by researchers from times immemorial due to its benefits to mental health and wellbeing. Practicing meditation is one of the best ways to overcome stress, anxiety, and depression.
Meditating for 5-10 minutes every day can be very beneficial to your mental wellbeing. It can help you increase your focus, concentration, and become much more aware of your surroundings. It can also help you become more resilient mentally during this ongoing crisis.
Focus on Spiritual Wellness
Spiritual wellbeing is one of the nine aspects of overall wellness that we often overlook in our daily lives. It is about having a higher meaning and purpose in life and being at peace with our inner selves. Spiritual wellness is interrelated with mental wellness, and the two directly impact each other.
To improve spiritual wellbeing, invest time in activities that help you tap into your inner peace and joy. One of the best ways to do this right now is to help poor people severely affected by COVID-19. Being of help and service to them will enable you to find a sense of spiritual fulfillment in your life that is long-lasting and meaningful.
Socialize and Express your feelings
In times of uncertainty like the ones we are facing now, we tend to seek connection and comfort from our close ones. But being socially isolated has created barriers between our friends and us and caused a drop in social interactions.
Fortunately, technology has enabled us to keep in touch with our loved ones and communicate with them at our convenience. So stay connected with your friends, family, and co-workers and regularly express your feelings and thoughts. Doing so will prevent the build-up of stress and anxiety, and keep your minds functioning correctly.
Limit exposure to news and media
We need to keep ourselves adequately informed during these ongoing times of crisis. However, constantly checking the news can seriously affect our minds. Repeatedly reading news about people being infected or killed by the coronavirus can cause anxiety, paranoia, and even depression.
So, don’t stay glued to the news channels on your television all the time, and instead of worrying, do something productive like reading a book or an article about increasing immunity to fight COVID-19.
Also, read news from reputable sources only as many sources go about spreading misinformation and fear.
Spend time doing things you love
Being confined to our homes has increased the amount of spare time we have every day. Making use of this extra time on our hobbies and interests can help refresh our minds and combat the stress caused by the ongoing pandemic.
Use your spare time to do things that you love, like cooking, gardening, playing an instrument, and so forth. Such activities stimulate our brains and keep them young and healthy.
Bonus Section: Tips for employers to boost the mental health of their employees
For employers, social isolation can become a big concern as well. Social isolation can pull employees away from social connectedness, adding to the stress and anxiety caused by COVID-19. Such adverse effects on employee health can cause severe repercussions for organizations.
And with the coronavirus infecting more and more people by the hour, social isolation is not going anywhere soon.
As such, employers must take measures to ensure that their employees are healthy, both mentally and physically.
Here are some steps that employers should take to keep their employees mentally sound during this pandemic -
- Provide online-counseling services to your employees to help them understand signs of stress and learn ways to combat it.
- Conduct online sessions where your entire workforce can interact with each other and take part in engaging games and activities.
- Encourage your employees to take short breaks during work hours.
- Encourage your employees to invest time in activities of self-care and self-development.
- Create a corporate wellness program and introduce engaging wellness-challenges to keep your employees mentally and physically fit.
We all know how adversely COVID-19 has affected our lives and our planet. However, we all need to understand that our outlook and mentality will eventually determine how well we can tackle this grim situation.
The future is uncertain as we have no vaccine at the moment to eliminate COVID-19 as a threat. It may even be possible that the coronavirus stays alongside us forever, and we build up an immunity to it over time.
But despite what the future holds, we have to make sure to follow measures like social distancing. At all costs, we must not let ourselves give in mentally to this pandemic and keep fighting as best as we can. Most importantly, we have to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, so that we live to see the day when we win this battle between humanity and COVID-19.