How to take care of your mental health during CoronavirusHuman beings are social animals that thrive in social settings, and staying in quarantine can be strenuous for our mental health.
Coronavirus has halted the movement of the whole world. People are staying indoors with fear and stress regarding the pandemic. But as human beings are social animals that thrive on socialising, staying in quarantine can not only be strenuous but can have a collateral effect on their mental health as well.
According to Kripa Sigdel Shrestha, executive director at Psychbigyaan Network Nepal, an organisation that works for mental health awareness, staying in quarantine can be difficult for human beings, as it curtails the normal functioning of society. “It can be difficult for people to stay in quarantine, as we have been always functioning in a group setting. Staying in quarantine might result in anxiety and loneliness especially for the vulnerable populations,” says Shrestha.
A recent study by a medical journal found that staying in quarantine can result in people suffering from various psychological issues from anxiety, stress, sleep disturbance, anger, and even depression.
But since social distancing has been deemed as the best (and currently only) way of combating the spread of the coronavirus, staying indoors is essential. In order to take care of your mental health, which is equally important, here are some tips you can follow during this time of crisis that can help you heal mentally.
Distractions are key
There’s no denying everyone is consuming everything they can about the virus. Bina Shrestha, senior psychosocial counselor at TPO Nepal, says that it’s a normal reaction of the human mind at a time of crisis, to want to know everything to better prepare themselves. “During the time of emergency we all are stressed out about the situation and also to get instant information immediately,” says Bina. However, according to her, different people react differently to the news they get, some may have pessimistic reactions. For this, distraction plays a key role in the sobriety of people’s mental state.
“Watching movies, listening to songs and reading books can be great ways to pass time as well as to distract them. They can calm us and give a rest to our mind,” says Bina. Although a complete distraction might not be possible, according to Shrestha, embracing hobbies and areas of interest daily can relax the mind.
Workout and meditate
It’s crucial for you to be extra cautious about staying healthy—for your mind and body—at a time like this. Psychologists recommend people to do light exercise and meditation regularly, as it can be an effective tool to release stress and anxiety.
“Since mornings always show the day, it is advisable to engage in light physical exercise and even mediation at home. It will not only make your mind fresh, but will help in making your mood better,” says Bina, who advises people to start their mornings with exercise and meditation rather than using their mobile phones or reading news.
Socialise through social media
Social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t talk with your friends and family. Since social media allows people to get connected in virtual space, it can be a great way of socialising with near and dear ones, which will help to maintain mental equilibrium. “People should call their friends and family through social media. It provides an assurance that someone is concerned about you,” says Bina. “While the issue of discussion might be related to the current situation, people should also share their inner feelings and talk about other issues to get a break from their stress.”
Make a list of to-do things
Geographical limitation doesn’t mean that you need to spend your days unproductively. Use the time you have as an opportunity to work on yourself. “Due to the fast pace of our life and busy schedule, it is often difficult for us to do things we want to. But right now, since many of us are home, we can use the time we have to work on hobbies. This can also be a great stress-booster,” says Shrestha, who is hosting a podcast series currently in order to answer the psychological queries of the people.
Only seek out information from credible sources in a fixed time
During the time of emergency, people tend to seek as much information as they can. But given the fact that fake news circulates like a wildfire, psychologists advise people to only depend on credible sources for news. “In an age of information overload, people rely on the internet for the news. While they can get instant information, because of some unreliable sources the fake news can act out as a stressor in these vulnerable times,” says Bina. “Even if people later find out that a certain news was fake, it will take a lot of time for them to ease out from the panic.
Psychologists also advise people to receive information from credible sources at intervals only.
“Taking breaks from the news and social media can help you distance yourself from the anxiety out there and avoid getting overwhelmed. Of course, you should be aware about the issue but make sure you don’t panic,” says Shrestha.
Limit your screen time
It’s natural for people to resort to using their mobile phones to pass their time in quarantine. However, it can have side effects on people’s minds, say psychologists. “Spending too much time on the phone can adversely affect your mental health, as it can trigger the stressors as well as create anxiety and even disturb sleep patterns,” says Bina.
Psychologists suggest limiting screen time and even recommend parents not to give their children mobile phones the whole day. “As it’s not possible to take their children out, parents can resort to letting their children play games or watch videos on the mobile the whole day. This can have a lasting impact, as they might adopt it as a behaviour which may be difficult for the parents to stop later,” says Shrestha.
You can call at 16600102005 (toll-free number) or mail your queries at email@example.com if you want to seek out any psychological help.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of March 31, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. As of Wednesday, Covid-19 had spread to 199 countries and infected more than 8,07,705 people with 39,456 deaths. In South Asia, Pakistan has reported the highest number of infections at 1,865 with 25 deaths. While India has reported 1,251 confirmed cases with 32 deaths. Nepal has so far reported five cases, in which one patient recovered.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.