Since fear, worry and stress are absolutely common reactions to perceived or real threats or at times of uncertainty, it is natural that people are experiencing all or any of the above during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The fear of potentially contracting the virus is not the only one we may face. There are changes to our everyday life such as the restrictions to move around or take part in regular activities that has been normal. The new setup of home office, temporary unemployment or – for many – the home-schooling of children test the mental state of most people.
And we have not even touched the more emotional challenge that the lack of physical contact with other family members, friends and colleagues means. At extraordinary times like this, it is of utmost importance to look after both our physical and mental health.
While some symptoms of stress are obvious. such as the increased use of tobacco or alcohol, the difficulty concentrating or sleeping, anger, sadness or frustration, others are less so but nonetheless very serious and need attention. These are, for example, the worsening of mental health conditions and chronic health problems, or physical reactions such as headaches, stomach problems and skin rashes.
Please see some tips that can help you cope with the challenges you are faced in the pandemic:
- Make the most of staying at home
While staying at home also means that our regular social activities are temporarily not available, we can turn it around and look at this period as an opportunity to set up a new daily routine and allow time to look after ourselves. Some ways to do that are reading, watching movies, learning or exercising relaxation/meditation, or studying something new. Also, make sure you stay in touch with others on online platforms.
- Try to enjoy a different type of social life
Staying in touch is largely limited to the online scene in the lockdown. Share valuable content but make sure it comes from a trusted source. Remember that your friends may be stressed and worried too. Likewise, if you find that the feed of certain people is increasing your anxiety, you can always mute or unfollow them.
You should also connect with faith-based community or organizations.
- Try to avoid speculation and stick to reputable sources
As in any situation, rumour and speculation can fuel insecurity and anxiety. Make sure you get trustworthy, quality information to help you feel more in control. Of course, you cannot and shouldn’t avoid all news, but limit your news intake if it is bothering you. From time to time, consider taking breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including those on social media.
- Stay active and take care of your body
While gyms, swimming pools and other sports venues may be temporarily closed, make all the efforts to stay active as that will boost both your immune system and your spirit. You can go running, hiking, cycling, or simply walking the dog. There are also many exercises and training apps or sessions available online, many of which are free. The knowledge that you have done something for your health is already a factor that will ease your anxiety.
To combat stress it is great to simply take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Also, remember to get plenty of sleep. Don’t neglect to carry on with preventive measures such as vaccinations and screenings. And get the Covid-19 vaccine when available.
- Eat a balanced diet
Make sure that you include a lot of vegetables and fruits in your diet, so your daily intake does not come only from supplements. There is an increasing amount of evidence showing how food affects your mood, and eating healthy meals can improve this. It is reassuring to know that your diet provides the right amount of brain nutrients as well, such as essential vitamins and minerals. Remember to drink plenty of water.
While smoking and drinking may seem to ease stress initially, this is misleading as they tend to make problems worse. Stay away altogether from them or at least try to reduce their amount.
- Keep a strict hygiene regime
The knowledge that you do everything in your power for prevention is in itself a factor to lessen stress. Follow standard hygiene advice such as washing your hands more often than usual for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water. If you can’t wash your hands straightaway, use hand sanitiser until you have the opportunity to do so.
- Make a personal financial plan
If the pandemic directly or indirectly impacted your financial situation, it is another factor to be anxious about. It may have reduced your income or left you temporarily unemployed or unsure about your job prospects.
So plan your finances, making sure that you are aware of what benefits you are entitled to get in your country, or if there is an easing on mortgage payments or other loans. It may also be useful to redo the household budgets for which several budget tools are available online. Staying in a stable financial position can have a rather beneficial effect on our wellbeing and mental state.
- Help yourself as well by helping others cope
If you take care of yourself, you are better equipped to take care of your friends and family. Even if you are apart, you can always help others cope with stress through phone calls and video chats to feel less isolated. Helping others also helps you feel better.
While the situation is getting better in several countries of the world, things are still rough in several others. There is a long way to beat Covid-19, according to the World Health Organization. “The Covid-19 pandemic is a long way from over. But we have many reasons for optimism. The decline in cases and deaths during the first two months of the year shows that this virus and its variants can be stopped,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference mid-April.
If you find it difficult to cope, there are several ways to get help. You can always call your healthcare provider or general practitioner if you are struggling. In extreme cases, people may even have thoughts of suicide. It is preventable and help is available.
If you are in crisis, get immediate help:
- Call 112
- Hotline for abused women and children: 06-80 505-101
- Mental First Aid: 06-1/20/30/60 116-123 or 06-80 505-505
Sources: WHO, www.mentalhealth.org.uk, www.cdc.gov