Mental health includes your emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. It affects how you think, feel, and act as you cope with life. It is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood and aging. It helps you to be physically healthy, have good relationships, make meaningful contributions to your community, work productively and realize your full potential. Over time, your mental health can change. For example, you may be dealing with a difficult situation, such as trying to manage a chronic illness, taking care of an ill relative, or facing financial problems. The situation may wear you out and overwhelm your ability to cope with it. This can worsen your mental health. Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also harder to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden. It is easier to say “my tooth is aching” than to say “my heart is broken”, says C.S. Lewis.
Signs that you might have a mental health problem
When it comes to your emotions, it can be hard to know what is normal and what is not. There are warning signs that you may have a mental health problem, including:
A change in your eating or sleeping habits
Having low or no energy
Feeling numb or like nothing matters
Withdrawing from people and activities you enjoy
Feeling helpless or hopeless
Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, angry, upset, worried or scared
Having thoughts and memories that you cannot get out of your head
Having severe mood swings that cause problems in your relationships
Thinking of harming yourself and others etc.
Depression during the COVID-19 pandemic in India and abroad
Studies from Wuhan and Australia showed high levels of depression among healthcare workers and people in communities with high coronavirus infection rates. Such anticipatory stress and anxiety, along with loneliness, could not only affect mental health but lead to decline in lifestyle quality and, ultimately, one’s health choices. Depression is a known risk factor for sleep disorders and eating disorders. The stresses of health risk that the pandemic presents and the tragic loss of life it has caused, combined with social isolation, a lack of access to favorite activities, and an uncertain future, are taxing for everyone. These issues may be especially challenging for those experiencing mental health conditions like depression.
In a Chinese study, exploring the psychological impact of the disease, almost 35% of respondents reported psychological issues due to pandemic. For those already living with depression, COVID- 19 is an additional complication .Vulnerable people who did not have clinical depression before the pandemic may also experience symptoms of this condition.
Experts say that people dealing with mental health challenges may be more vulnerable than others during a public health crisis because:
They are more likely to pick up infections
Accessing treatment can be more difficult for them
The emotional stress of COVID-19 & social isolation makes their preexisting condition worse
Quarantine may prevent them from accessing their usual treatments, such as going to therapy sessions or practicing certain lifestyle choices.
People living with depression during this pandemic may now find themselves having difficulty accessing their medications, facing unusual intense fear about the spread of COVID-19 and how it may affect their loved ones, feeling extremely anxious about their finances, feeling uncertain and confused about how to shop for necessities, withdrawing more due to social isolation, experiencing an increased sense of helplessness and hopelessness about the future.
Tips to take care of mental health during COVID-19 Pandemic
Here are few simple steps you can take to ensure that your mental health is well taken care of during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Talk to family and friends
While some of us are living with families through this lockdown, many are not. So, pick up your phone and talk to your parents. They must be anxious as you are, but sharing your thoughts definitely will make you feel much lighter and less lonely. Video call your friends and share a laugh or two. Connecting with each other, even if it is virtual, sharing your feelings and a whole lot of gossip can reduce the stress considerably.
Stick to a routine
While most of us would love to sleep, because we don’t have places to rush to, having a set time is important for our mental well-being. It helps us feel that we are in control of situation. Eat your meals at regular times and have set times for sleeping and waking up .Unstructured time is known to create boredom and cause spikes in depression.
Also, try making to-do lists for the day .Striking things off at the end of the day is therapeutic. But also, don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t complete something. There is always a new day for that.
Research shows that meditation reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression. A good ten minute meditation in the morning can calm you considerably and enhance self-awareness.
All of us have a hidden artist inside us. So let that creative being out and make him/her try something new every few days. Pursue that hobby you have been long ignoring. Draw, paint, write, play an instrument, dance, use all this time in your hand to let the artists in you create. You never know, you might just surprise yourself.
Following these steps and allowing ourselves to feel everything, without beating ourselves up, is important. So stay in, stay safe, connect and breathe!
Sheeraza Ahad Pursuing her Master’s Degree in Biotechnology, The Central University of Kashmir, Ganderbal