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Mental Health During Covid-19: Wellness Tips

After a year, Covid-19 is still wreaking havoc on our world. While the vaccine rollout has helped lessen infection rates in some countries, many nations are still enforcing lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing to stop the spread of coronavirus. 

With all the uncertainty, it’s no wonder that there has been an increase in mental health issues. Here’s how we can deal with the virus while staying home and staying safe physically, emotionally and psychologically. 

mental health
Photo by Fernando @cferdo on Unsplash

Is The Coronavirus Pandemic Affecting Our Mental Health?

The coronavirus pandemic has induced concern, worry and fear across the globe. It has had a significant negative impact on mental health. Lockdown and quarantines have disrupted everyday life, routines and even the livelihoods of many people. 

A 2020 study that examined adults’ mental health and coping since the start of the pandemic found that:

  • 38% reported a lack of energy and lethargy, 
  • 36% reported sleeping issues, 
  • 25% felt depressed or hopeless. 
  • 24% said they had trouble with concentration, 
  • 43% felt that they were ‘on edge’,
  • 35% reported that they were unable to relax. 

Stress and anxiety are common psychological impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and mental health issues during this time should certainly not be ignored. In fact, long term negative effects on mental health such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are also expected. 

Common Mental Health Issues During Lockdown

Common mental health issues during lockdown include stress, anxiety, excessive worrying, depression, loneliness and even grief. These issues can manifest in:

  • Changes in energy and appetite.
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities.
  • Feelings of sadness, numbness, worry and even anger.
  • Inability to focus and concentrate.
  • Difficulty falling and staying asleep (insomnia).
  • Having nightmares.
  • Worsening of pre-existing mental health conditions.
  • Worsening of chronic health issues.
  • Headaches, stomach issues, skin rashes, body aches and other physical reactions
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco as well as other substances.

Impact Of Covid-19 On Mental Health Of Students

The pandemic isn’t just affecting adults. A report by Unicef found that the crisis has also had an impact on adolescents. A 2020 poll conducted among 8,444 young people among the ages 13 to 29 found that:

  • 27% said they felt anxiety.
  • 15% reported depression.
  • 30% reported that the economic situation influenced their emotions.
  • 46% reported less motivation for activities they usually enjoyed.
  • 36% said they were less motivated when it came to usual chores.
  • 43% of females reported feeling pessimistic about the future.
  • 31% of males reported feeling pessimistic about the future.
  • 73% felt that they needed to ask someone for help for their physical and mental well being, but only 33% asked for help.

Thus, it’s vital to pay attention to how students and adolescents are coping with the pandemic. Help should be offered and made easy to access for this group. 

Other Implications Of Covid-19 For Mental Health And Substance Use

Substance use has also increased during the pandemic. This is most likely due to people having to cope with the negative impact of Covid-19. 

A 2021 study found that many adults were not only having trouble sleeping and eating, but also a 12%  increase in the consumption of substance use and alcohol to help with the stress and worry of the coronavirus. Additionally, the CDC also cited increased alcohol, tobacco and substance use due to stress from Covid-19

mental health
Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

What is Covid Anxiety? 

Anxiety is normal when we face uncertainty or have to deal with things that might cause us harm. As such, having to stay continuously vigilant about our physical, emotional, and psychological health during the Coronavirus pandemic can certainly take its toll. 

Covid-19 anxiety is real and is characterized by:

  • Checking for symptoms frequently even if they are not in a high-risk area.
  • Avoiding social situations or places with large crowds or gatherings.
  • Difficulty or inability to leave the house due to fear of catching the infection.
  • Frequent worrying and monitoring the situation on news/social media.

Because long-term anxiety of any sort will have negative consequences, self-care and mental health management are of much importance during Covid-19.

Management Of Mental Health During Covid-19

If you’re feeling anxious or fearful during this season, here are some wellness tips to help you cope:

Focus On What You Can Control

The uncertainty caused by the pandemic can have a negative impact on mental health. There are many things that we cannot control. This includes how long Covid-19 will stay, or the infection current rates in our community. 

Getting caught up on things that are out of our control will only add to the toll on our mental health. So here’s what you focus on:

  • You can focus on reducing your personal risk of infection. You can do this by using hand sanitizer or washing your hands with soap and water. Stay home if you can and avoid social gatherings. Only go out if it is necessary. You can also practice social distancing and adhere to all other recommendations from your local health authorities. 
  • Get enough sleep. Sleep is important as it will help strengthen our immune system, keeping us as healthy as possible. Being well-rested also helps us to function better and have clarity of mind. 
  • A healthy, well-balanced diet will also boost your immune system and keep you from getting sick. 
  • Understand that COVID is treatable for a majority of the population and catching the infection (even after you’ve taken all precautions) does not indicate an “end of the day” situation for you!

Be Selective About Media

It is important to stay informed with the latest updates with regards to the coronavirus. However, too much information can be overwhelming. Additionally, misinformation and sensational headlines will only feed your fears. 

Here’s how you can be more discerning when it comes to media input about Covid-19:

  • Refer to trustworthy media sources such as the World Health Organization or your local health authorities. Be aware that some information you receive might not be true. 
  • Limit checking for updates on Covid-19. Constantly monitoring news for updates can fuel anxiety. Be aware of your emotions and make sure that you’re not compulsively checking social media or news websites. If you’re anxious but want to know the latest news, allocate half an hour in the evening for this purpose. 
  • Ask for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or even depressed with the ongoing pandemic, avoiding the media entirely can help. Instead of checking the news yourself, ask someone you trust to pass along major updates. 
  • Just as we need to be discerning about our media intake, we also need to be careful about passing on information. Verify information before sharing it so that misinformation and rumours do not create panic. 

Stay Connected With Friends And Family

Social distancing is one of the keys to keeping the coronavirus from spreading. However, being isolated for too long can result in overwhelming loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Hence, it’s important to stay connected. 

  • Schedule regular phone calls, video calls, or Zoom meetings with friends and family to stay in touch. Video chats where you can see the other person can boost your mood. 
  • Social media can provide a sense of community and remind us that others too are going through many of the same problems we’re facing. However, do not hesitate to log off if social media makes you feel worse. 
  • Be aware of your conversations. Enjoy the company, laugh, and share stories with your friends and family. Take a break from talking about the pandemic. 

Help Others

Assisting others in your community will help you shift from focusing on your fears and worries. Doing so also gives you a purpose and helps give you a sense of control. 

Here’s what you can do: 

  • Many are in financial difficulty due to the pandemic. You can help those who are having financial challenges by donating to food banks in your community. 
  • Offer support to those who are isolated. Check up on your elderly or disabled friends and acquaintances. They may not be able to get the help they need. A phone call to check in with them and offer assistance can help reassure them that they are not alone. 
  • Be an uplifting influence. Many people are struggling, panicking, and having to cope with more than they can. Spread some kindness throughout your community. 

What Can I Do To Cope With The Effects Of COVID-19 Quarantine?

Having to stay home or quarantined for prolonged periods can be a challenge for both our mental and physical health. Eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and focusing on the positives are mental health management strategies that will help you through this trying time. 

Here are some other self-care and wellness tips to help cope with the disruptions brought about by the coronavirus:

  • Maintain a daily routine. Having regular sleep and wake times, regular meal times, and a work schedule can help you to maintain normalcy. If you have children, a daily routine will set expectations and help them get through the day.  
  • Make time for exercise. Exercise can help relieve stress, anxiety, and alleviate your mood. Take advantage of the many free online exercise routines on YouTube. Who knows? You might come out of the pandemic fitter than you were before!
  • Get some fresh air if possible. Just heading out for a walk can help you to feel better. Just be careful to adhere to the restrictions in your area. If you are unable to go out for a walk, walking around your home can still help you to remain active. Try taking calls standing instead of sitting down. 
  • Be kind and don’t hold yourself to your old standards. If you’re trying to cope with mental health issues due to Covid-19, go easy on yourself and seek help because you’re not alone in this. 
  • Take breaks and allow yourself time for activities that you love. Whether it’s cooking, watching TV, reading a book, or painting, activities that we enjoy can help ease fears and worries.
  • If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, avoid using alcohol or other substances to self-medicate. This may lead to long-term consequences such as substance dependence. 
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing. 
  • Seek online therapy for ongoing mental issues. 

Conclusion

Our mental health is of great importance during the current pandemic times. Take the necessary steps to manage your mental health, especially if you have others who are relying on you. 

Seek help if you feel that you are unable to cope with stress and anxiety or if you find yourself self-medicating. Contact your mental health care practitioner if you need help. Additionally, group therapy can also help with anxiety, stress and substance use.

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